Bail reform in New York’s state budget

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ALBANY, NY (WENY) — Monday, New York lawmakers started to debate and vote on the final state budget, one month after its original deadline.

Throughout the budget process, lawmakers have said bail reform is one of the major sticking points.

Last week, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the final budget plan has an agreement to eliminate the least restrictive means–a standard for judges to set bail.

“It gives judge’s discretion. They need to hold violent criminals accountable. While still upholding our commitment to a justice system that is fair and accessible to all and also ensuring that poverty is never treated as a crime,” (13 seconds).

Hochul said the final budget will include $40 million for public defenders to help them retain staff and enhance the services they provide–including a pay increase.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-35th Senate District) said the Governor’s push for this bail change is a needed clarification for judges–but emphasized they always had discretion.

“We’ve removed what the Governor feels is a confusion. But again, we will continue to be data driven. We think it is important that as we move around in this space that we not criminalize poverty, that we criminalize criminals,” Stewart-Cousins said.

Assembly Member Phil Palmesano (R-Corning) said the Governor’s change to the least restrictive means standard doesn’t go far enough to address issues of public safety.

“Her least restrictive standard might improve it a little bit. But that’s just a small sliver of the criminal justice policies that we continue to see be advocated and passed, which has created the public safety crisis we have in our communities across the state,” Palmesano said.

Some lawmakers have said bail changes will likely be in the Education, Labor, and Family Assistance Article VII bill, also known as ELFA. The ELFA bill is this year’s “big ugly”– one big bill where several contentious issues including bail reform are put together.

Some lawmakers said bail changes will be put in the ELFA bill because it makes it harder to vote against.

Around 5 p.m. Monday, eight budget bills were printed with two left.


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