In an increasingly hard-line approach to the fierce drug war, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has tripled the budget for drug treatment programs from $73 million to $176 million. The Times reported that Cuomo also backed passage of his controversial proposal to ban synthetic drugs, even though the measure has failed twice in the State Senate. He said the state should spend some of the savings from legalizing marijuana in driving and public safety efforts. “We need an increased focus on what we do know and what we can do to reduce the number of people addicted to drugs,” he said. “The best prevention, frankly, is a better recovery.”
In Washington on Tuesday, the Trump administration’s top lawyer said the administration opposes a push by lawmakers to overhaul the 1994 “three strikes” law, in which states were given the power to limit the rights of repeat offenders and impose mandatory minimum sentences. Solicitor General Noel Francisco told lawmakers that the president could always “change his mind” and sign legislation that would address concerns with the three strikes statute, but doing so would require the president to “enter the legislative arena,” according to The Hill. The legislation, which has the support of a bipartisan coalition in the Senate, would end mandatory minimum sentences for crimes committed by offenders who have no prior record and classify certain non-violent drug offenses as misdemeanors.
The two top leaders of the Republican-controlled Senate, leader John Flanagan and Andrea Stewart-Cousins, have started talking about how they can come together on at least some aspects of the deal struck between Democrats, then-governor Andrew Cuomo and the Republican Assembly speaker, Carl Heastie. The plan for legislation to end what some consider the irrational prosecution of non-violent offenders hinges largely on the Senate staying in Republican hands after this fall’s elections. A vote has not yet been scheduled, but the governor would also likely be a key player in getting the deal done. There is talk, though, that the timing could be pushed back to next week.
Elsewhere in the state, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is considering doubling the size of a limit on how many new developers can gobble up local open space, according to The Buffalo News. Advocates for adding greenery to roads and highways, including the leaders of the WNY Forward effort, said doubling the density could lead to more traffic as well as more pollution and worsening heat waves. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer is also seeking to oust the four-member MTA board that is not dominated by minority- and women-owned businesses.