Editor's note: This story was corrected at 1:52 p.m. on Jan. 3, 2018. An earlier version included incorrect information about how many Capital Region cities have received funds through the state's downtown revitalization initiatives. The city of Hudson, in addition to Glens Falls, was a recipient of those funds.
CAPITOL — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday proposed that the state pass a law requiring consistent sexual harassment policies across all levels of government and at private companies that do business with the state.
His proposal, which would prohibit the use of public funds to secretly settle harassment complaints against government employees, comes at a time when sexual assault and harassment are prominent in public debate.
It was one of the last in a series of "State of the State" proposals Cuomo has put out ahead of Wednesday's annual State of the State speech at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center.
The speech, taking place on the same day that the state Assembly and Senate return for their 2018 sessions, and intended to set the governor's vision for the Legislature, will begin at 1 p.m. It's a return to tradition for the governor's annual speech, after he chose to hold a series of speeches around the state in 2017 rather than make a single speech to the Legislature.
Various state and local officials have faced sexual assault or harassment charges in recent years — sometimes settled with public funds — and recent months have seen significant allegations of harassment in government, entertainment, the arts and at news organizations.
Cuomo said in a release: "2017 brought a long overdue reckoning where the secret and pervasive poison of workplace sexual harassment was exposed by brave women and men who said this ends now. Our challenge in government is to turn society's revulsion into reform, and we in New York must seize the moment and lead the way. There must be zero tolerance for sexual harassment in any workplace, and we can and will end the secrecy and coercive practices that have enabled harassment for far too long."
EDITORIAL: Give it to us straight, governor
His proposal, which would require approval from the Legislature, would set standards for all levels of government and require annual reports on sexual harassment findings from private companies that do business with New York state.
Last month, there was widespread criticism of Cuomo's response to a female reporter's question about sexual harassment in state government.
Cuomo's proposed sexual harassment policy was the 18th proposal he has released ahead of the speech, as he has staked out ambitious changes he will seek regarding education, economic development and social and environmental issues.
Also on Tuesday, Cuomo proposed creation of an Office of Workforce Development to try to close workforce skills gaps, and outlined an agenda to combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the clean energy economy.
Cuomo has been outlining his ideas for both general legislation and legislation to deal with specific local problems around the state since mid-December.
Among the areas where he has made proposals:
- He seeks $34 million to modernize and expand Stewart International Airport in Newburgh and rename it New York International at Stewart Field.
- Build a new arena at Belmont for the New York Islanders hockey team.
- Invest $20 million in improvements to the Niagara Falls wastewater treatment plant.
- Carry out a third round of the state's downtown revitalization initiatives. In the first two rounds, Glens Falls and Hudson were the only Capital Region cities to obtain funding.
- Prohibit firearms for people convicted of domestic violence crimes, including misdemeanors. The legislation would require all domestic violence crime convictions, including misdemeanors, to result in the immediate removal of all firearms from a household
- Outlaw "revenge porn," in which pictures of former intimate partners are released online.
- Eliminate the tip wage credit, which has allowed employers whose workers are tipped, such as restaurant workers, to pay less than minimum wage.
- New programs aimed at at-risk youth, to eliminate gang recruitment, especially in Suffolk County, where the violent Latin American MS-13 gang is strong.
- Threaten to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency if it declares the $1.7 billion project to remove General Electric PCBs from the Hudson River complete. Cuomo and state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman contend that more dredging is needed, and have threatened to pull the state out of the 2002 federal-state agreement on the PCB cleanup.
- Stop rail car storage in the Adirondacks, where Iowa Pacific Holdings has been storing cars on otherwise unused tracks in Essex County.
- Contain a contamination plume at a U.S. Navy-Northup Grumman site on Long Island.
- Develop ways to protect upstate New York lakes from harmful algae blooms.
- Have the state retirement fund stop investing in fossil-fuel companies and use its funds to invest in clean energy companies and technologies.
- Develop a detailed response to the new federal tax law, with its new limits on the deduction of state and local income and property taxes.
- Establish new protections for the state election system, including creating regulations that would require disclosure of who pays for online political ads, similar to how print and broadcast political advertising is regulated.
- Making the county shared-services panels that state legislation required be established in 2017 permanent.
- New rules and consumer protections for those who have taken or are considering taking on student debt to attend college or post-secondary training programs
- "No Student Goes Hungry," which would increase the availability of school breakfast program and attempt to end the practice of "lunch shaming" for students who don't pay for their school meals.
A topic that Cuomo hasn't addressed in his proposals but may address is an estimated $4 billion revenue shortfall in state's budget.