A New York state budget agreement could include a range of criminal justice and public safety law changes, making for a sweeping compromise amid ongoing concerns over crime.
At least that's what has happened in the past, when disparate issues are knit together in a final budget deal that make it hard for lawmakers who have some misgivings to vote against it. On Friday, Gov. Kathy Hochul told reporters there's a desire to use the budget as a "vehicle" for a number of changes.
"We're talking about serious policy initiatives in the budget, which is progress in itself and my sense is there's a need for — there's urgency," she said. "There's urgency out there."
The marquee issue for the state budget, expected to pass at the end of next week, has been the debate over public safety and whether to add more circumstances to when cash bail should be considered. But a number of additional proposals, such as sealing many criminal records in order to help people who have completed their sentences find housing and jobs, as well as more money to implement discovery law changes in New York, are possible.
"It's not a slam dunk by any stretch of the imagination," said state Assemblyman John McDonald, a Democrat who represents the Capital Region. "But I do think many of the elements, maybe not all, have to consider and we should probably consider it in the context of the budget. "
State lawmakers over the last several days have huddled over the bail law changes. Progressive advocates have opposed making any changes, while elected officials as well as members of the clergy and Asian-American community in New York have supported Hochul's plan.
"I do expect the package to come together," McDonald said. "I think it will be an improvement. I don't think anyone is going to run away with a victory flag by any stretch of the imagination, but I think it's a movement in the right direction."
Calls for addressing public safety have been driven in part by politics. New York Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy announced he had filed a records access request for any documents related to the Hochul administration's bail deliberations. He called the broader issues surrouding crime a top concern for voters.
"I believe that this is the A-one issue on the minds of voters all over the state, and the country," he said, "but particularly here in New York."