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A law that decriminalizes possession of up to 2 ounces of marijuana took effect Wednesday. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said it's "long overdue." But some advocates say the law does not go far enough.

Starting Wednesday, possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana is punishable by a $50 fine. Anyone caught with 2 ounces of cannabis would be fined up to $200. The measure also creates a mechanism to expunge the records for some past marijuana convictions.

Karen DeWitt / WXXI News

  

Advocates of ending solitary confinement in New York's prisons ended the 2019 legislative session disappointed that changes made to the practice did not go further, and they say they'll be back to fight for more progress. 

One advocate, Victor Pate, spent 90 days in solitary confinement when he was serving a prison term for robbery. That was 23 years ago, but Pate said he still feels like a trauma survivor. 

Karen DeWitt

The state Senate held a hearing on how New York can join 15 other states and implement automatic voter registration.

Advocates said it could result in 2 million more registered voters in a state that has one of the worst records for voter registration and participation.

Under the proposal, instead of opting in to vote, residents would opt out.

Karen DeWitt/WXXI News

The New York State Legislature held a daylong hearing Tuesday on a proposal to enact single-payer health care in New York.

A packed room listened as supporters and opponents debated whether it’s the answer to the state’s health care gaps.

freeimages.com/Michael Cossey

Volunteer fire departments and ambulance corps across New York have a tough time recruiting volunteers.  A group of state lawmakers say an incentive may make that easier. 

Republicans in the Senate and Assembly are proposing full state income tax exemptions for volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel.

Assemblyman Stephen Hawley said the tax break would also be a way to demonstrate gratitude for the work these people do.

We have a conversation with Governor Andrew Cuomo. We had an opportunity to speak with the governor about water levels in Lake Ontario; the 2020 election; and a number of other issues impacting New Yorkers, including the economy, marijuana, and drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants. We also hear from WXXI's Capitol Bureau Chief, Karen DeWitt

Governor Cuomo's office

As Earth Day was celebrated Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that bans single-use plastic bags in grocery stores and other retail shops in New York state.

Cuomo, crumpling a plastic bag in his hand for effect, said the bags “look harmless enough” but are actually dangerous to the environment -- and New Yorkers use 23 billion of them a year. They end up in landfills and on the street. Cuomo, an avid deep-sea fisherman, said they also clog up the waterways.

In the latest WXXI Business Report, we talk about:

-The latest job growth numbers from the NYS Labor Dept.

-A move in the Cannabis industry that could also impact a deal with Constellation Brands

-Renovations at some Tops supermarkets

New York state poised to raise smoking age from 18 to 21

Apr 1, 2019
Ayhan Yildiz/ / freeimages.com

The Democrat-controlled New York Senate passed legislation Monday putting the state a step closer to joining seven others where the legal age for buying cigarettes and electronic cigarettes has been raised from 18 to 21.

The state Assembly, also controlled by Democrats, passed its own legislation last month.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo also supports raising the age to 21 for purchasing cigarettes and is expected to sign the legislation. Once that happens, the new law will take effect in 120 days.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is set to release details of a plan to make recreational marijuana legal in New York state when he outlines his budget proposal later this month. Even the governor concedes, though, that there are many unanswered questions about how to proceed.

Cuomo, who less than two years ago called marijuana a “gateway drug,” said he still has some questions and concerns about legalizing the drug for recreational use. But he said he’s working with a panel of experts, including law enforcement and health officials who have determined it can be done safely and that the “benefits outweigh the risks.”

The governor said his position also has been influenced by neighboring states that have legalized marijuana or are in the process of doing so.

“You’ll just force people to drive to Massachusetts or drive to New Jersey and then come back into this state and use it in this state,” Cuomo said.

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