By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Governor Andrew Cuomo highlighted a number of causes frequently championed by State Senator Brad Hoylman in his speech outlining his agenda for 2019 earlier last month, in addition to pushing for the legalization of recreational marijuana.
The governor specifically called for the passage of Hoylman’s legislation that would extend the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse crimes and the passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, which would add gender identity and expression to the state’s hate crime and human rights laws. The governor also called for bolstering gun control measures and passing Senator Hoylman’s bill banning bump-fire stock devices.
Hoylman said that he’s optimistic about the governor’s commitment to pass his legislation, especially because of the Democrats’ new majority. Of Hoylman’s bills that the governor mentioned in his address, the senator said that the Child Victims Act, which would increase the statute of limitations for victims of child sexual abuse, is one of the most crucial.
“New York is an outlier for protections for child sexual abuse and LGBT issues, which were two issues that the governor mentioned, so I’m really glad to see him supporting them,” Hoylman said. “And now we have a Senate to support them. No longer does the governor have to compromise, which unfortunately has been the case in the last decade.”
Although the Trump administration announced a new federal regulation on December 18 officially banning bump-fire stocks shortly after the governor’s speech, Hoylman was not optimistic that the ban will be sufficient.
“The Trump administration is claiming that they’re going to do it at a federal level but that will be challenged by guns rights advocates,” he said. “New York should make it clear that it’s illegal to possess a bump stock in addition to using it.”
Hoylman also noted that he is co-sponsoring legislation with State Senator Brian Kavanagh to implement a law that would allow family members to intervene when someone who may be a danger to themselves or others has a gun, a law which Hoylman said decreases suicides.
“It was blocked by Republicans last year,” he said. “They passed it (in the judiciary committee) and killed it quietly and it never had a floor vote. The NRA has had a stranglehold over the Republican Senate so we’re going to see a big change.”
Hoylman was also encouraged by initiatives the governor mentioned in his address not directly related to his own legislation, including ethics reforms such as closing the LLC loophole, strengthening the rent laws and ending vacancy decontrol, which Cuomo mentioned specifically in the speech.
Hoylman, who has long been a supporter of congestion pricing, said that he was optimistic about the governor’s backing of the policy in the address.
“It’s a very progressive position of the governor and I strongly support him on it,” he said. “It can definitely provide revenue for MTA. Not everything we need, but it’s an important start.”
The governor also specifically outlined a path for legalizing recreational marijuana in the address, a departure from his previous statements in which he opposed legalization.
“Marijuana legalization is way past due in New York State and I’m really glad the governor now wants to move in that direction,” Hoylman said. “It’s a way to regulate a product that’s in widespread use, reduce the rates of criminalization around marijuana, add a new revenue stream and address some of the wrongs perpetrated largely against communities of color.”
Hoylman added that there has been talk of using the revenue from marijuana sales to fund the MTA but he said that he would prefer to see the money going to the communities that have been most affected by the drug’s criminalization. “I’m focused on seeing communities that have been adversely affected have the first access to these new resources and expunging the records of people who have arrests records of people who are convicted of selling or possessing marijuana,” he said. “I want to see some of those resources in neighborhoods with high rates of arrests and there should be recognition that there’s a double standard on the issue of marijuana possession and sale.”
The senator said that he’s looking forward to the opportunity that the Democrats have for making changes in the new year now that the party has a majority in the legislature and he said that he’s optimistic that the governor will back these progressive initiatives.
“Everyone is watching very closely,” Hoylman said. “It’s a new day in Albany. We have the first African-American woman and the first woman to lead a legislative chamber. This is a moment that the Senate should seize and I’m strongly supportive of us passing the strongest bills in all of these areas with assembly and sending to the governor for his signature.”