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Cuomo's State Of The State Agenda Includes Higher Minimum Wage, Women's Equality Act, Gun Control

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Pushing for gun control and equal rights for women, Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered his third State of the State address in which he outlined his agenda for the upcoming year. NY1's Zack Fink has the story.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined a wide progressive legislative agenda in his State of the State address in Albany Wednesday, including a 10-point Women's Equality Act, raising the minimum wage to $8.75 an hour and demanding the toughest assault weapons ban in the nation.

Saying the proposed bill will follow the spirit of 2010's Marriage Equality Act, Cuomo wants the Women's Equality Act to include guarantees of equal pay, protect a women's right to choose, strengthen human trafficking laws and order-of-protection laws and end sexual harassment in the workplace.

The governor actually mentioned the Reproductive Health Act in his last two state of the State addresses as well.

However, advocates for women's health say they believe this time is different, and the governor will push for it. The move drew an immediate rebuke from Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who said he was greatly disappointed.

Cuomo also said that New York should lead the nation in gun control by having the toughest assault weapons ban. He also wants the same background checking policies that are done at dealers and guns shows to be required for private gun sales.

The governor proposed increasing penalties for illegal purchasing of guns and having mental health professionals report to law enforcement when a gun owner is likely to harm others.

"End the madness now," Cuomo said in his speech. "Pass safe, reasonable gun control in the state of New York. Make this state safer. Save lives. Set an example for the rest of the nation."

While a deal was not announced Wednesday, lawmakers were optimistic about its passage.

"I am confident we can get it done soon," Independent Democratic Conference Leader Sen. Jeff Klein said. "How quickly, I'm not totally sure, but we need to get it done soon."

The governor stressed the need for rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Sandy, including recommendations from four commissions he set up to look into ways to protect the state from future storms.

Some recommendations included flood-proofing the subway system, building a more resilient New York Harbor, eliminating the Long Island Power Authority and increasing the government's role regulating utilities.

He criticized Congress' delayed passing of a federal Sandy relief bill.

"Do not play politics while people need to be back in their homes and small businesses need money to open their doors," Cuomo said.

The governor also proposed to criminalize the sale and possession of designer drugs like bath salts and synthetic marijuana, with sentences equivalent to drugs like heroin and LSD.

"We are a really divided country right and there is no place where that is more evident than in Congress," Rep. Peter King said.

Cuomo also wants the state minimum wage to be raised from $7.25 to $8.75, to help revive the still-lagging economy.

The governor proposed a grant program for schools to improve student success and increase learning time by 25 percent. He also said the state plans to invest in full-day pre-kindergarten for children with the highest needs.

He also proposed establishing a state "bar exam" for teachers to get certification.

As expected, Cuomo also made a push for the public financing of state elections modeled after the system used in New York City.

In the area of green technology, Cuomo proposed setting up a $1 billion "green bank" that would be matched by the private sector to spur growth in environmentally friendly business.

He also wants to name a new cabinet member to be an "energy czar" to oversee the state's green businesses, and said he wants to establish an anti-hunger taskforce.

On the lighter side, Cuomo proposed a national whitewater rafting competition to be held in the Adirondacks, and joked that Albany bigwigs and Mayor Michael Bloomberg could take part in the contest.

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