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Grayson talks Cuba, wages ahead of State of the Union

Congressman Alan Grayson is a democrat representing Florida's 9th district in the U.S. House of Representatives. Photo: Ldl766, Wikipedia English

President Obama gives his State of the Union speech tonight before a joint session of Congress where he will outline his legislative agenda for 2015.

The President’s talking points aren't much of a secret this year – he’s spent the last two weeks previewing initiatives in Tuesday’s address.

On of those legislative initiatives is a bill that would provide seven days paid sick leave to all Americans. He’s also asking for $2 billion for states to create their own medical leave programs.

But Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson says the President should look at working conditions first.

“Better pay and better working standards. That’s an issue here in Central Florida – it’s the only issue. We need people to get a fair days pay for a fair days work. It is a disgrace the Central Florida is 50th of the 50 cities in the country when it comes to pay,” he says.

Cuba is expected to be another talking point in the address.

Last month the President announce a new approach to diplomatic relations with that country. He wants to establish embassies and ease a long-standing trade embargo.

For that he’ll need help from Congress. But not all legislators – Grayson included– are on board with the President’s plan.

“I’m concerned that I see the carrot and not the stick. I don’t see what kind of punishment will be left to inflict on the Cuban regime if it maintains its dictatorial ways and continues to deny, particularly younger Cubans, the opportunities they would have if they lived in a country that functions as a part of the real world," says Grayson.

He says the U.S. needs to set deadlines for Cuba before the embargo is lifted. Without an amended plan, he says the embargo has a zero-percent chance of being lifted by Congress.

Representative Grayson says he’s willing to help get "good" legislation passed on behalf of the President this year. He says he passed 31 amendments last year despite a Republican-controlled house.

The President's State of the Union begins Tuesday at 9:00pm.

Brendan Byrne is Central Florida Public Media's Assistant News Director, managing the day-to-day operations of the newsroom, editing daily news stories, and managing the organization's internship program.

Byrne also hosts Central Florida Public Media's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration.