ALBANY — Governor Hochul touted budget proposals to boost public safety Tuesday as part of her pitch to her fellow Democrats to amend New York’s controversial bail reforms.
He focused on declining crime rates in upstate Rochester, specifically shootings and murders, while highlighting various aspects of the $227 billion budget plan he unveiled last month.
Chief among their goals is to once again review the state’s bail laws.
Hochul has filed a plan that would amend the 2019 bail reform legislation, which eliminated cash bail and mandated release for most non-violent misdemeanors and felonies, by removing language requiring judges to set the “least restrictive” conditions to ensure that the defendant returns to court. .
“We have this inconsistency in the law,” the governor said during Tuesday’s event at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Rochester. “The confusion is understandable, and I want to make sure that we remove that standard, give them criteria to look at.
“Removing the ‘least restrictive’ means standard for bail-eligible cases, which are serious violent crimes, is what we’re going to be looking for,” he added.
State Senator Jeremy Cooney (D-Rochester) endorsed his public safety plans, which have been met with much less enthusiasm by many of his colleagues in the Legislature.
“We cannot allow the data to hide the realities of fear,” Cooney said along with Hochul, noting that while crime has decreased in recent months, many are still afraid of becoming a victim. “In the neighborhoods I represent, public safety is not a fact, it’s a feeling.”
Bail has remained a lightning rod of controversy since the 2019 changes were enacted. Republicans and moderate Democrats, including Mayor Adams, have blamed the rise in crime on cashless bail.
Bail reform advocates have repeatedly pointed to the lack of data showing any correlation between the system and any increase in violent incidents.
Still, the Dem-led Legislature has twice amended the law, including last year when Hochul pushed to give judges more discretion and make more crimes eligible for bail.
It’s unclear whether lawmakers are in the mood to roll back the law further, especially since many see Hochul’s proposal as an attempt to dismantle the current system.
A pair of Rochester City Council members criticized his bail plan.
“For this governor to come to Rochester, one of the poorest cities in our nation, and claim that bail reform allows people to shoot each other without consequence is simply insulting,” Kim Smith and Stanley Martin said in a statement. on Tuesday.
“The reality is that Governor Hochul’s budget proposal does not achieve the investments and policy changes that communities in our state need to be safe,” they added.
Hochul’s budget proposal includes increasing spending for programs “designed to prevent and reduce gun violence” to the tune of $337 million. Another $31.4 million is for alternatives to incarceration programs, plus $20 million for pretrial services.
Hochul’s plan would increase funding for prosecutors, allocating $52 million in assistance to the 62 district attorney’s offices across the state.
Another $40 million is earmarked to support implementation of the discovery reform, something prosecutors have pushed for since the 2019 reforms included changes aimed at ensuring evidence is shared with defense attorneys in time for defendants. make informed decisions about plea bargains.
The Senate and Assembly are currently drafting budget proposals as negotiations continue ahead of the state’s April 1 fiscal deadline.