Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday signaled that he could be persuaded on legalizing professional mixed martial arts bouts in New York, telling reporters he think it’s an issue that’s “making progress.”
Cuomo has declined to take a position on the state’s MMA ban since taking office in 2011. Last year, he declined to say whether he would sign a bill that would lift the ban if it hit his desk.
But when asked again Thursday for his position on the sport, Cuomo sounded a warmer tone.
“I think it’s making progress and it’s something that we’re looking at. It’s a possible source for revenue in New York and we are all about looking for revenue in this state,” he said. “So if we can bring economic activity in — shows, et cetera – that’s something we’re very interested it, and we’re reviewing the current proposals.”
The state Senate passed a bill on Wednesday that would lift the ban, allow the state Athletics Commission to regulate MMA bouts and place a tax on ticket sales and permits. The same bill has passed the Senate in the past, however, but has never come to the Assembly floor for a vote. Several Democrats in the Assembly and Senate have raised concerns about the violent nature of the sport, which can include choke holds, arm bars and kicks to the head.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said his conference will discuss the bill in private before advancing it for a vote. Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, D-Irondequoit, Monroe County, is expected to introduce the legislation in the lower chamber in the coming days.
Meanwhile, Cuomo said he likely wouldn’t issue a “message of necessity” in order to pass a state budget, which is due March 31 but will likely have to be completed before Passover begins on March 25. A message of necessity would waive the mandatory three-day waiting period before lawmakers can vote on a bill, but Cuomo has received criticism for issuing one that allowed the Legislature to quickly pass new gun-control laws in January.
“We’re proceeding in an orderly way and I don’t anticipate at this time any reason why we’re going to have a mad scramble at the end,” Cuomo said.
(Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/USA Today Sports)