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Long IslandPoliticsSpin Cycle

Late dealing on medical pot, teacher evals underway in Albany

ALBANY -- This final, frenetic day of the 2014 legislative session is on track to pass dozens of measures likely to include legalization of medical marijuana and a revision of teacher job evaluations.

Several veteran senators emerged from the first closed-door Republican session of the day Thursday saying talks are underway in earnest on both issues. The senators said they expect each will be approved in some form in the afternoon.

That would allow time for printing bills in a typical marathon last day, which is expected to end around 2 a.m. Friday.

The talks have resumed despite pessimism from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in recent days that either issue would be resolved in time for the session’s close.

“It’s the typical end of session,” said Sen. Catharine Young (R-Olean). “There is a lot of discussion going on, and things tend to come together.”

“I think it’s going to be a long night,” said Sen. Joseph Robach (R-Rochester). “There is still a lot of negotiating going on.”

Wheelchair-bound advocates for legalizing medical marijuana lined the hallways of the Assembly and Senate. State troopers were called in as a precaution and to keep paths clear for lawmakers to go to and from the Senate and Assembly chambers.

Advocates for legalizing medical use of marijuana say it is an effective remedy for pain and nausea associated with several diseases including cancers and for use against seizures. One of the biggest sticking points is whether to allow patients 21 years old and older to be allowed to smoke marijuana to receive the medication, a position advocated in the legislature.

Cuomo, however, opposes smoking. He said he fears that could result in chaos and abuse of medical marijuana, which has happened in some states.

Cuomo and the legislature are also trying to find a way to help teachers avoid unfair job evaluations because of a much-criticized rollout of the Common Core’s higher academic standards. The legislature has already postponed the impact on students who received uncharacteristically poor grades on tests based on the new national standards.

But no such delay or adjustment has been made for teachers, whose job evaluations can be based partly on student performance in tests using the Common Core standards.

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