Governor Cuomo Lays Out 2020 Agenda
Yesterday Governor Andrew Cuomo held his annual State of the State address in Albany, where he laid out his legislative priorities for 2020. While many of the proposals he talked about were released prior to the address, he did save some of the bigger ticket items for the speech itself. We have outlined some of the more important items below to give you a snapshot of key takeaways from the speech yesterday. It is important to remember that we have yet to see actual bill language for the below issues so many details remain unknown.
- Paid Sick Leave – One of the major announcements that wasn’t leaked ahead of the speech, the Governor will be introducing legislation mandating universal paid sick leave for all employees. Under this proposal those businesses that employ between 5-99 employees would need to provide 5 days of paid sick leave annually, while those who have more than 100 employees would be required to provide 7 days of paid sick leave. Details on how employees would accrue sick time remain unknown, as does if the State has a plan in place to help businesses manage this increase in cost. Similar paid sick leave mandates currently exist in New York City and Westchester County.
- Styrofoam ban – If you have been reading this newsletter over the last month you are aware that we expect to see several green initiatives hit the legislature this year. The Governor reemphasized something that he announced in December, that he will be looking to ban all single use styrofoam containers this year.
- Legalizing Marijuana - Governor Cuomo announced a proposal that would legalize adult use cannabis and create a new Office of Cannabis Management to specialize in cannabis. The proposal will administer social equity licensing opportunities, develop an egalitarian adult-use market structure and facilitate market entry through access to capital, technical assistance and incubation of equity entrepreneurs. The proposal will also correct past harms to individuals and communities that have disproportionately been impacted by prohibition. To safeguard public health, the proposal limits the sale of cannabis products to adults 21 and over and establishes stringent quality and safety controls including oversight on the packaging, labeling, advertising and testing of all cannabis products.
- ‘Gig Economy’ changes - One issue that sprouted up at the end of last session, and the Governor confirmed will be back this year, is that a long look will be given to how workers in jobs related to the new "gig economy" are classified. This emerging sector, which features companies like Uber, Lyft and Grubhub, have always been able to classify their employees as independent contractors but many progressives will be looking to get that designation changed this year. If they do manage to get this changed, costs for all these companies will rise significantly. This will be one of the major talking points of this legislative year.
- Electronic Bikes and Scooters – Legislation was passed last year that would have legalized the use of electronic bikes and scooters in New York. However, the Governor vetoed the bill as the legislation did not go far enough to address safety concerns he had. Materials circulated by the Governor’s staff following the speech yesterday highlighted that he intends to introduce new legislation that would legalize these transportation items and would assuage the concerns that his office expressed last year. Legalizing ebikes is something many delivery workers in New York City would like to see accomplished and we have long been supportive of this issue.