ALBANY, N.Y. — Legalized marijuana, sports betting and new traffic tolls in Manhattan are just some of the measures Democrats believe they can push through the New York Legislature in a 2019 session that begins this week with their party in control of both chambers and the governor’s office for the first time in a decade.
Lawmakers swept into office in a backlash against President Donald Trump’s plan to fight back against his policies on immigration, the environment and healthcare, while also seeking to catch up to neighbors such as Massachusetts, which has already legalized marijuana, and New Jersey, which has approved sports betting.
Other items on their wish list include expanding state health care programs, codifying protections for abortion rights, reforming antiquated voting laws and eliminating cash bail for criminal defendants.
“People will finally get the government they have been voting for for so many years,” predicted Senate Democratic leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, of Yonkers, the first woman to lead a legislative body in New York.
First up when lawmakers convened Wednesday may be the Child Victims Act, a long-debated bill that would extend the statute of limitations for child molestation and create a one-year window for victims to sue over old abuse claims now barred by the statute of limitations. The measure has repeatedly passed the state Assembly only to be blocked by the Senate’s Republican leaders under pressure from the Roman Catholic Church.
Cuomo wants to include marijuana legalization in the state budget, due by April 1, a remarkably short time frame for such a complicated issue. Regardless of what form legalization may take, many lawmakers want a phased-in approach similar to the one adopted in Massachusetts, where personal possession and cultivation of marijuana were legalized long before the first retail shops were allowed to open.
Approving new congestion tolls for New York City will be just as politically challenging. Supporters, including environmental groups, transit advocates and even local chambers of commerce, argue that new surcharges on vehicles entering the busiest parts of Manhattan are the best way to discourage driving while raising billions to repair and modernize the city’s subways. Gov. Andrew Cuomo supports the idea. But the details — how high will the toll be, will local commuters and small businesses get a discount? — could undermine the push.
Riders and transportation advocates say Albany must find some way to fund subway repairs or else the nation’s largest city will have to live with a system that has fallen far behind its peers in other global cities.
“New York City’s subways are falling apart. Service disruptions and frequent delays have become all too common, contributing to what has become a daily nightmare for many of New York City’s riders,” said Jaqi Cohen, of the Stranghangers Campaign, a coalition of subway riders.
The six-month session is likely to test Cuomo’s certitude and the sincerity of lawmakers who now have the chance to enact policies they’ve spent years talking about. Last year’s elections sent a wave of new, liberal lawmakers from New York City to Albany, where they may butt heads with Capitol insiders and more moderate lawmakers from the suburbs and upstate. Cuomo may find himself in the middle, forced to balance the ambitions of liberals with the realities of governing a state with 20 million people and a $168 billion budget.
And don’t forget the Republicans, who promise to do what they can to force the governing party to the bargaining table. That includes GOP senators still smarting from November’s defeat.
“Even though Senate Republicans now make up the minority of this chamber,” said Sen. John Flanagan, the Republican minority leader, “our voice on issues important to hardworking middle-class families will be more critical than ever.”
Big rig loaded with mail crashes in Little Rock; tractor ends up on guard rail
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The old saying about those who deliver the mail goes something like this: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
But Sunday some indecision did.
The Arkansas Department of Transportation posted on its social media site that the driver of a tractor-trailer carrying a load of mail couldn’t decide which ramp to take off Interstate 440 Terminal Interchange with Interstate 30 and ended up striking the guard rail.
The tractor separated from the trailer and wound up hanging partially over the bridge railing.
Officials said one of the tractor’s fuel tanks became dislodged and fell onto Interstate 30 below causing an explosion and fire.
The driver was taken to a hospital, but her condition is unknown.
Traffic was delayed on both I-30 and I-440 which is the main thoroughfare between Little Rock and the Bill and Hillary Clinton Newsal Airport.
Colorado DOT kicks off project to install media cable barriers on I-25
DENVER — The Colorado Department of Transportation kicked off a seven-month project in June that aims to install new median cable barriers along Interstate 25 between Pueblo and Colorado Springs as a safety measure to prevent median crossover crashes.
According to an article in the Journal of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the Colorado agency noted in a June 14 statement that it is using a “multi-phased approach” based on vehicle crash history and traffic volumes to specifically locate the new cable median barriers – part of its Whole System – Whole Safety initiative that takes a systematic approach to safety that includes driving behaviors, the built environment, and operations.
“Improving the safety of Colorado’s transportation network by reducing the rate and severity of crashes and improving safety conditions for travelers is our main goal,” Shoshana Lew, executive director of the Colorado DOT, said in a statement. “The statewide program’s whole system approach is unique in how it brings together all areas of the driving experience, resulting in improved and enhanced safety for motorists.”
The $3.5 million project – expected to be completed by December – will remove any existing barrier structures and replace it with media cable barrier along with “added offset” from the travel lane and flattened median side slopes.
That will continue to eliminate vehicle cross-over crashes, the agency noted, while additionally reducing nuisance hits as the northbound cable barrier can be removed. The net effect will allow better maintenance access, reduced maintenance costs, better traffic flow, and further enhancing safety, Colorado DOT said.
A 68-page study wrapped up last year by the Center for Transportation Research and Education at Iowa State University determined that cable median barriers “significantly” reduce motor vehicle crash fatalities and injuries, though they do lead to an increase in “property-damage only” crashes, according to the collected data examined by the school’s researchers.
That study found that out of the 6,718 median-related crashes it examined over a nine-year period stretching from 2007 to 2015, cable media barrier safety devices reduced fatalities, incapacitating injuries, and non-incapacitating injuries by 68.7, 36.8, and 23.9 percent, respectively.
Love’s opens new facilities in Michigan, Illinois and Pennsylvania
OKLAHOMA CITY — Love’s Travel Stops is now serving customers in three new locations — Bridgeport Charter Township, Michigan; Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania; and Hampshire, Illinois.
The Bridgeport Charter Township location at 6560 Dixie Highway (near Interstate 75 and Exit 144) adds 80 new jobs to Saginaw County and 87 truck parking spaces.
The Slippery Rock stop off Exit 105 and I-79, brings 40 jobs and 48 truck parking spaces.
The third location in Hampshire at 201 Love’s Crossing (near Interstate 90 and U.S. Highway 20), has 177 truck parking spaces and brings 80 jobs.
In total, Love’s is adding 312 truck parking spaces for professional drivers.
“These three locations place us in the perfect spots to serve more customers,” said Tom Love, executive chairman and founder of Love’s. “All are along major interstates that are popular for trade routes and leisure travel. We’re proud to add truck parking in areas where our customers need it.”
The travel stops are open 24/7 and offer many amenities.
More than 12,000 square feet of space, Hardee’s restaurant, 87 truck parking spaces, 87 car parking spaces, eight diesel bays, Speedco location on-site, four RV parking spaces, eight showers, laundry facilities, bean to cup gourmet coffee, brand-name snacks, Mobile to Go Zone with the latest electronics, CAT scale.
More than 10,000 square feet of space, Arby’s restaurant, 177 truck parking spaces, 53 car parking spaces, nine diesel bays, Speedco location on-site, three RV parking spaces, seven showers, laundry facilities, bean to cup gourmet coffee, brand-name snacks, Mobile to Go Zone with the latest electronics, CAT scale.
Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania
More than 10,000 square feet of space, Subway restaurant, 48 truck parking spaces, 60 car parking spaces, seven diesel bays, Love’s Truck Tire Care center, two RV parking spaces, six showers, laundry facilities, bean to cup gourmet coffee, brand-name snacks, Mobile to Go Zone with the latest electronics, CAT scale.
In honor of the grand opening, Love’s will host ribbon cuttings and donate $2,000 to the Bridgeport Historical Society, Northern Butler County Feed My Sheep Food Cupboard in Slippery Rock and Hampshire High School.