New York Eyes Legalizing Sports Betting, Marijuana to Fill Budget Gaps

New York lawmakers kicked off their 2021 legislative session with calls to alleviate the fiscal pain caused by the coronavirus pandemic and plans to consider the legalization of marijuana and online sports betting.

Members of the state Senate and Assembly gaveled in at the Capitol on Wednesday, but many lawmakers attended virtually rather than visiting the chamber. Democrats have a two-thirds majority in both chambers, and adopted rules over GOP objections that will allow for remote voting and debate while a coronavirus state of emergency is in effect.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat from Yonkers, said lawmakers would confront a projected budget deficit of more than $8.7 billion and planned to raise revenue by increasing taxes on the wealthy as well as legalizing marijuana and sports-betting.

“We need to get serious in making sure that everyone shares the burden. We need to make sure that more of the millionaires and billionaires who have gotten even richer step up during this pandemic,” she said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he would begin outlining his formal agenda in a Monday presentation. On Wednesday, the Democratic governor reiterated his support for legalizing marijuana—as he did at the start of the past two years.

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