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Capitol Watch: Trump tax bill awaits Cuomo; Pot progress?

May 25, 2019
In this March, 31, 2019, file photo, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks about the state budget during a news conference at the state Capitol in Albany, N.Y. A bill that would grant Congress access to Donald Trump's state tax returns awaits action by Cuomo. Meanwhile, members of the state Senate are looking at legislation that would legalize marijuana. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — In New York state government news, a bill that would grant Congress access to Donald Trump’s state tax returns awaits action by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Meanwhile, members of the Senate are taking a look at legislation that would legalize marijuana and regulate paid gestational surrogacy.

Here’s a look at what’s coming up:

TRUMP TAXES: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo could act this week on legislation that would give the Democrats a new, and perhaps easier, path to President Donald Trump’s tax information.

The legislation doesn’t target Trump by name, but it would allow the leaders of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee or the Joint Committee on Taxation to get access to any New York state tax returns filed by elected officials and top appointed officials. The legislation would apply to personal income tax returns, as well as business taxes paid in New York.

Lawmakers approved the bill Wednesday. Cuomo hasn’t said what he plans to do with the bill but supporters expect the Democratic governor to sign it.

“We support the principle,” Cuomo spokesman Jason Conwall said last week. “We’ll have to review the bill.”

Once it’s signed, the bill is likely to face a legal challenge, according to lawmakers on both sides of the bill. Republican legislators called the bill a partisan proposal intended to single out a specific individual.

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MARIJUANA

Capitol watchers will be waiting for evidence of progress on one of the session’s hottest topics: the legalization of recreational marijuana.

While there is broad support among top lawmakers about legalizing marijuana, disputes over details could derail the effort.

Cuomo and top lawmakers say there’s still time to work out a deal this year, but they’ll have to act fast if they expect to be ready to vote on the complicated topic before lawmakers adjourn in five weeks.

One big question relates to whether the state should expunge decades of low-level marijuana convictions as part of legalization.

“This is a social justice issue,” said Assemblyman Walter Mosley, D-Brooklyn.

Lawmakers are also undecided when it comes to the details of specific tax rates and regulations, and whether counties should be allowed to opt out of allowing retail dispensaries, or whether they should have to opt in instead.

Advocates say lawmakers have the time and the ability to strike a comprehensive deal.

“This conversation is past due,” said Kassandra Frederique, director of the Drug Policy Alliance in New York. “This cannot be a piecemeal approach.”

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PAID SURROGACY

New York is one of only a handful of states that don’t allow gestational surrogacy contracts, in which a woman is compensated for carrying another person’s child.

That nearly 30-year-old law was passed in an effort to prevent exploitative arrangements that a state task force determined could be harmful to both women and babies. But it is now being targeted for repeal by many couples who say they’re forced to travel out of state to find surrogates they can compensate.

Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat who has two daughters who were born to surrogates, has written legislation to permit and regulate surrogacy agreements in a way that he says would protect parents, surrogates and children.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, supports the measure, which is likely to get a vote before lawmakers adjourn next month.

“I’m optimistic although it’s a complicated issue,” Hoylman told The Associated Press on Thursday. “We plan to have a robust hearing and believe we have a bill that protects all of the parties.”

The Senate will hold a hearing on the issue Wednesday in Albany.

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