ALBANY, NY (WENY) — With the final budget plan deadline around the corner, bail reform remains a hot topic of debate in budget negotiations.
In her budget plan, Gov. Hochul proposes eliminating the least restrictive means– a standard for judges to set bail. Last week the Senate and the Assembly rejected this proposal in their one-house budget resolutions.
But the governor continues to emphasize this change to the bail law–which if passed would be the state’s third change to the bail law since 2019 when legislation passed to eliminate cash bail for some criminal charges.
“I want to make it absolutely clear that judges have both the authority and the accountability for these important decisions. And that’s why I’ve proposed a very simple change,” Hochul said.
Sen. James Skoufis (D-42nd Senate District), a democrat supportive of the governor’s proposal, said repeated offenses of violent crime are increasing in the state and judges need more assistance from the legislature to address this.
“This clarifies any confusion that might be in some court rooms and provides a tool to judges to be able to remand violent re-offenders as they should be remanded when they’re back in a court facing a second or a third or a fourth charge,” Skoufis said.
But many bail reform advocates who traveled to Albany Wednesday chanting throughout the capitol building expressed concern for Hochul’s bail proposal.
“Rolling back bail reform isn’t the answer and continuing to focus on it isn’t going to solve the problem. What we really need to be doing is focusing on the solutions that actually reduce crime and that actually keep our communities whole and safe,” said Alana Sivin, New York State Director for FWD.us, a social welfare organization.
Some lawmakers who oppose Gov. Hochul’s bail proposals highlighted bail is pre-trial before an individual is determined guilty or not guilty.
“We don’t’ need to lock up people who are poor who can’t afford to post-bail,” said Assembly Member Jessica González-Rojas (D-Assembly District 34).
Lawmakers and the governor are currently in budget negotiations. Some lawmakers said bail reform could be an issue that pushes the final budget plan past it’s deadline which is next week on April 1.