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As NYS marijuana talks go on, a deal is reached on climate change

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders agreed

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders agreed to a global warming measure and landmark labor rights for farmworkers. Credit: Charles Eckert

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders continued difficult negotiations Monday that could lead to the legalization of marijuana, but along the way agreed to a global warming measure and a bill to give farmworkers landmark labor rights.

A legislator said Monday afternoon the marijuana issue remained “totally up in the air.” The Senate floated a new compromise bill, but it didn’t have the support of the Assembly with just over two days left in the session.

A closed-door negotiating session in the afternoon among Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins ended without an agreement on marijuana legalization.

“We’re still talking about how to close things down, if we can,” Heastie said. “Nothing final came out.”

Legislators who support legalization of marijuana said the sticking points were “technical,” including how revenues could be spent, who would be on an advisory board, and whether local communities should be allowed to “opt in” or to take action to “opt out” of the legislation, according to several Democratic senators.

But it’s late in the game to overcome even minor speed bumps. The legislative session is scheduled to end Wednesday night.

“I believe we can come to an agreement that will pass, but I don’t know,” Cuomo said Monday morning on WAMC public radio in Albany.

The comment comes after a new bill was introduced Sunday that could be seen as a limited alternative to a comprehensive bill to legalize marijuana for adults.

That bill would further reduce the charge for possession of marijuana, expunge many past convictions for possession and restrict smoking of marijuana in public through tobacco smoking laws. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Jamaal T. Bailey (D-Bronx) and Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D-Buffalo).

“We have to get it right,” Bailey said. He said that might require that legalization be taken up next year, which is a legislative election year.

Cuomo said he doesn’t want to take interim steps and instead wants to pass a single comprehensive bill. He said one of the final stumbling blocks is how much latitude to provide local governments to opt out of allowing the sale of marijuana at highly regulated sites and whether the power would be given only to counties, or to all cities, towns and villages.

Cuomo, however, said a deal was struck over the weekend on a climate change bill to combat global warming.

Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) said the Climate and Community Protection Act will reduce New York carbon dioxide output by 85 percent by 2050. After that, the bill would require the state to reduce the release of emissions that contribute to global warming to zero.

“New York is leading the way,” said Kaminsky, chairman of the Senate’s Environmental Conservation Committee. He said there are “carve-outs” in the law to help businesses such as steel manufacturers to reduce their emissions without being forced out of business.

Cuomo said another agreement will provide farm workers with some of the labor rights provided to other workers. Labor laws involving overtime and hours worked have often treated farm workers differently because of the seasonal nature of their employment.

Deputy Speaker Catherine Nolan said the farm bill is a “very big step to right a long-standing wrong.”

“Helping farmworkers secure labor protections will help the economy, too,” said Nolan.

The bill, which has support from Cuomo and legislative leaders and is expected to be passed Tuesday, would: Provide time-and-a-half pay beyond a 60-hour week, a required day off each week, a path to get to 40-hour work weeks in future years, and the right to collective bargaining.

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