ANDREA STEWART-COUSINS

We examine public policy and the Empire State with New York Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

Aired on February 19, 2020. 

TRANSCRIPT

> GOOD EVENING.

WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M JACK FORD.

WE BEGIN IN ALBANY WITH AN EXCLUSIVE LOOK AT AN INDEPTH INTERVIEW WITH ANDREA STEWART COUSINS.

THE LAWMAKER HAS BEEN AT THE CENTER OF THE FIGHTS OVER BAIL REFORM, LEGALIZING MARIJUANA ACCIDENT AND THE OPIOID CRISIS.

WHAT ELSE DOES SHE HAVE IN STORE FOR NEW YORK IN THE NEW YEAR?

WELL, SHE SAT DOWN WITH THE NEW HOST OF WMHT NEW YORK NOW DAN CLARK.

DAN?

THANKS, JACK.

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER ANDREA STEWART COUSINS IS STARTING A BUSY YEAR WITH THE FOCUS ON THE.

I WANT TO START WITH SOME NEWS OUT OF ALBANY.

THE SENATE PASS AD PATCH OF BILLS ABOUT THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC.

CAN YOU TELL US WHAT IT IS ABOUT?

WE HAVE SEVERAL.

THAT I KNOW EVERYONE UNDERSTANDS THAT THE OPIOID CRISIS IS NOT JUST A CRISIS IN NEW YORK.

IT IS A NATIONAL CRISIS.

WE DECIDED NOT TO SIT BACK AND HOPE SOMEBODY ELSE WOULD START WORKING TOWARD SOLVING IT FLAG BECAUSE IT IS ACROSS THE STATE, WHAT I ASKED IS FOR A TASK FORCE.

WE HAD THREE CO-CHAIRS.

TO BEGIN THE PROCESS OF GOING AROUND THE STATE AND LISTENING TO PEOPLE.

AND I WILL SAY THAT THIS WAS A BIPARTISAN TASK FORCE.

A TASK FORCE LIKE THIS HAS BEEN CONSTITUTED BEFORE, UNDER THE PREVIOUS MAJORITY WITH NO DEMOCRATS, FRANKLY.

I REMEMBER THAT.

BUT I KNEW THAT THIS IS SO IMPORTANT AND IT CERTAINLY CROSSES EVERY LINE AND EVERY DEMOGRAPHIC WE INVITED SOME REPUBLICAN SENATORS TO BE PART OF IT AS WELL.

THEY WENT AROUND THE STATE AND THEY TALKED TO EVERYONE IMPACTED AND CAME ONE A PACKAGE THAT WOULD DO A FEW THINGS.

IT WOULD EDUCATE, WHICH IS SO IMPORTANT, AS WIDESPREAD AND PERVASIVE AS THIS.

SO IT RAISED THE EDUCATION.

IT WOULD MAKE INSURANCE MORE RESPONSIVE.

IT WILL LOOK AT DIFFERENT TREATMENTS METHODS.

IT IS A HUGELY IMPORTANT THING IN NEW YORK.

ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT THAT WE'VE LOOKED AT.

WE'VE WILL SO MUCH MORE.

I WANT TO ASK YOU, WHAT ARE YOUR PRIORITIES THIS YEAR?

WE'VE HAD A LOT HAPPEN.

DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING YOU WANT TO GET ACROSS THE FINISH LINE?

AGAIN, WE ARE VERY, VERY, ALWAYS FOCUSED ON MAKING SURE THAT WE ARE BUILDING OUR ECONOMY, THAT WE ARE PROVIDING TAX RELIEF TO OUR WORKING FAMILIES, MIDDLE CLASS.

FAMILIES WHO ARE STRUGGLING STILL WITH DAYCARE EXPENSES, WITH COLLEGE AFFORDABILITY.

WE'RE ALWAYS TRYING TO DO THAT.

JOB AND JUST MAKING SURE THAT WE PROTECT OUR EDUCATION, THE FUNDING FOR EDUCATION, AND OF COURSE, WE HAVE A HEALTH CARE, I WON'T SAY A HEALTH CARE CRISIS BUT WE HAVE A DEFICIT THAT WE'LL HAVE TO FIND A WAY TO BRIDGE THAT GAP AS WELL.

I WANT TO ASK BUT THE DEFICIT SINCE YOU BROUGHT IT UP.

THE GOVERNOR HAS PLAN.

FINDING $2.5 BILLION IN SAVINGS USING WHAT HE IS CALLING THE REDESIGN TEAM.

IT IS BASICALLY A PANEL OF PEOPLE HE'S APPOINTED TO FIND THE $2.5 BILLION.

HE ANNOUNCED HIS PICKS THIS WEEK.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THEM?

WELL, OBVIOUSLY, WHAT I LIKED WAS IN HIS MESSAGE, THE BUDGET MESSAGE.

HE TALKED ABOUT THE MEDICAID REDESIGN TEAM, TOO.

HE TALKED ABOUT ONE OF THE PRINCIPLES.

THE PRINCIPLES WERE WE WERE GOING ON DELIVER THE HEALTH CARE THAT NEW YORKERS NEED WITHOUT CAUSING SOME KIND OF PAIN, WITHOUT TAKING AWAY FROM WHAT PEOPLE HAD AS EXPECTATIONS FOR THE HEALTH CARE DELIVERY SYSTEM, WITHOUT HAVING A BURDEN FOR THE TAXPAYERS.

THE GOALS, THE OBJECTIVES ARE LAUDABLE.

HE HAS PROFESSIONALS WHO HAVE BEEN TASKED TO DO THIS.

AND WE WILL SEE WHAT THEY'VE COME UP WITH, OBVIOUSLY, WE KNOW HOW IMPORTANT IT IS THAT HEALTH CARE BE DELIVERED, AND THAT WE KNOW THAT PEOPLE ARE LIVING LONGER.

AND THAT NEW YORKERS ARE, YOU KNOW, MANY OF THEM WHO ARE INVOLVED IN CERTAIN LONG TERM CARE ARE SENIORS WHO WE WANT TO BE ABLE TO REMAIN IN NEW YORK.

RIGHT.

ON THAT PANEL IS THE SECRETARY OF THE SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE.

YOU DO HAVE SOME REPRESENTATION ON IT.

DO YOU WANT MORE?

DO YOU WANT TO BE MORE INVOLVED IN THAT PROCESS?

WE WILL BE INVOLVED IN THE PROCESS.

THE SECRETARY OF OUR FINANCE WILL BE THERE.

WE'LL BE GETTING FEEDBACK.

AND IT IS A LONG, IT WAS LONG BUT SHORT TIME BETWEEN NOW AND THE TIME WE HAVE TO MAKE THESE DECISIONS IN THE BUDGET.

AND WE'LL BE ENGAGED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE PROCESS.

AND GIVE OUR FEEDBACK, PUSHBACK OR SUPPORT.

ANOTHER BUDGET ISSUE ON THE TABLE HAD YEAR WAS ON MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION.

WE KNOW THAT IT WILL BE A HUGE ISSUE THIS YEAR.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

I KNOW SUPPORT LEGALIZATION.

WHAT DO YOU THINK IT WILL TAKE TO GET AS MANY DEMOCRATS ON BOARD AS NEEDED TO FAST BILL THIS YEAR?

IT IS ASSAL, IT IS THE CONSENSUS BUILDING THAT IS NECESSARY.

I THINK PEOPLE PROBABLY UNDERSTAND THAT LEGALIZATION IS HAPPENING ALL AROUND US.

IT SEEMS INEVITABLE.

IT DOES?

YEAH.

BUT WE'VE ALWAYS BEEN, CERTAINLY OUR CONFERENCE HAS BEEN A CONFERENCE THAT SAYS, WE DON'T NECESSARILY WANT TO DO WHAT EVERYBODY HAS DONE BECAUSE IT IS BEING DONE.

WE WANT TO MAKE SURE WE'RE DOING IT RIGHT.

THERE ARE ALL THESE ELEMENTS ABOUT THAT.

MAKING SURE THAT THERE ARE FUNDING RESOURCES FOR EDUCATION AROUND THE ISSUE AND OF COURSE THE EQUITY ISSUES THAT WE ALWAYS TALK ABOUT.

MAKING SURE THE COMMUNITIES THAT HAVE BEEN MOST IMPACTED ARE ABLE TO BENEFIT FROM THE ECONOMICS WHICH WE ALL KNOW ARE PROJECTED TO BE VERY, VERY LARGE FROM THIS PARTICULAR INDUSTRY.

IT IS HOW THE A INDICATION HAPPENS IN THE BUDGET.

WHERE DO THE RESOURCES GO?

HOW DO WE MAKE SURE THEY'RE DIRECTED IN A VARIETY OF WAYS THAT PEOPLE WOULD LIKE TO SEE THEM DIRECTED.

THOSE ARE THE CONVERSATIONS THAT ARE REQUIRED FOR US TO AGREE ON.

AND AGAIN, WHAT WE ALSO SAY IS THAT FROM WHAT OTHERS SAY TO EXPERIENCES, IT IS NOT AN IMMEDIATE REVENUE SOURCE.

IT DOES TAKE A WHILE TO BECOME, AND THEN THERE IS ALL THE THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN BETWEEN.

WHICH WE'RE TRYING TO LEARN FROM OTHER STATES THAT HAVE DONE THIS.

BEFORE WE RUN OUT OF TIME, I WANT TO TALK TO YOU ABOUT BAIL REFORM.

I FEEL LIKE YOUR POSITION HAS BEEN MISREPRESENTED BY SOME PEOPLE.

YOU'RE SAYING DOWN THE LINE, YOU MAY SEE TWEETS THAT COULD HAPPEN.

YOU'RE NOT SAYING THAT.

THERE ARE IMMEDIATE CHANGES YOU HAVE IN MIND.

WELL, I AM SAYING THAT PEOPLE ARE TALKING ABOUT, WE MUST REPEAL THE LAW.

WE ARE NOT REPEALING THE LAW.

WE UNDERSTAND WHY WE DID THIS.

WE DID THIS BECAUSE FOR TOO LONG, THE SYSTEM THAT EXISTS HAS REALLY CRIMINALIZED POVERTY.

PERSONS WHO HAVE DONE THE SAME EXACT CRIME BUT CANNOT AFFORD TO GET OUT ON BAIL ARE, YOU KNOW, LEFT IN JAIL FOR AN ENORMOUS AMOUNT OF TIME WITHOUT RECOURSE.

JUST BECAUSE THEY COULDN'T AFFORD TO BUY THEIR WAY OUT.

WHAT WE DID WAS RIGHT.

WE ATTACKED SYSTEM THAT WAS NOT JUST.

WHAT WE WERE LISTENING TO, WE WILL CONTINUE TO LISTEN TO STAKE HOLDERS, TO SEPARATE FACT FROM FICTION, TO SEE IF THERE ARE SOME TWEETS OR ADJUSTMENT THAT'S WE CAN MAKE, THAT WOULD MAKE THIS A LOT BETTER.

WE'RE TRYING TO MAKE SURE NOT ONLY VICTIMS OF CRIME ARE ABSOLUTELY PROTECTED IN THE COMMUNITY, THE COMMUNITY IS PROTECTED, BUT WE HAVE A JUSTICE SYSTEM THAT IS JUST.

YOU'VE BEEN MEETING WITH MEMBERS OF LAW ENFORCEMENT.

TAKE ME INSIDE THOSE MEETINGS.

JUST A STATEMENT OF FACTS.

I'M ASKING FOR THEIR DATA.

SOMETIME PEOPLE SAY, WELL, WHAT HAPPENED?

AND THEN WHEN YOU DRILL DOWN, A LOT OF NUANCES OR PEOPLE WHO DIDN'T QUITE UNDERSTAND THE LAW OR THERE COULD HAVE BEEN CAN DIFFERENT OPTIONS.

WHAT I WANT FROM THEM, WHAT I THINK WHAT WE HAVE, WE CAN ONLY DO THIS WELL IF WE'RE WILLING TO SHARE THE FACTS.

AND TELL ME HOW IT IS REALLY IMPACTING THE COMMUNITY AND IF THERE IS A CHANGE BASED ON FACTS WOULD HELP EVERY PIECE OF THIS PUZZLE, WE'RE WILLING TO LISTEN.

IT IS ESTABLISHING THE TRUST AND CONTINUING THE ALLIANCE OF COMMUNICATION.

THE OTHER THING I WANT TO SAY.

PEOPLE ARE SAYING, THEY DIDN'T TALK TO THESE GROUPS.

WE DID.

YOU DID.

WE DID.

SO IT IS IMPORTANT TO KNOW THAT NONE OF THIS HAPPENED IN A VACUUM AND IT CERTAINLY DIDN'T HAPPEN IN A VACUUM OF EVERYONE KNOWING.

100% OF THE PEOPLE KNEW.

THAT WHAT WE HAD WAS UNJUST.

WE'RE PROUD THAT WE ARE TRYING TO FIX THIS.

ALL RIGHT.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

THANK YOU.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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