ALBANY, N.Y. -- Assembly Democrats are pushing a package of bills aimed at criminal justice reform in New York, including raising the age of criminal responsibility and making it easier for those accused of a crime of making bail.
"I don't want to make declarations but I've expressed to the governor and Senator (Jeff) Klein and Senator (John) Flanagan how important this Raise the Age is and how the criminal justice reform is to me," said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx.
The bills include measures aimed at boosting transparency for grand juries and reforms to sentencing procedures.
Democrats insisted the measures aren't anti-law enforcement.
"Believe me when I tell you, they are not. They are to improve our criminal justice system to make it better for all," said Assemblyman Joe Lentol, D-Brooklyn.
The package would raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York to 18. Democrats say they back an effort to add more judges to the Family Court system in order to enact the long-sought reform.
"Couple of years ago, we provided for more family court judges. If that's the case, we will continue to do that," Heastie said. "I believe the governor in his budget has proposed in some places to pick up the extra cost of this."
Republicans, though, raised objections to the legislation, saying there wasn't enough focus on the victims of crime.
"Generally, these bills ignore the plights of the victims of these crimes and focus on defending criminals and that's just not the direction we need to go in the state of New York," said Assemblyman Ray Walter, R-East Amherst.
While Democrats argue reduced incarceration leads to reduced costs, Walter says money would be spent enacting other changes.
"Any potential savings are going to be offset by the cost to implement them. I don't think there's any saving to that," Walter said.
Of the measures passed Tuesday, the raise the age legislation stands perhaps the best change in the GOP-led Senate, though lawmakers have struggled to reach a compromise in recent years.