Nine days ago, New York state Assemblywoman Latrice Walker began a hunger strike as negotiations over changes to the state's law ending cash bail requirements for many criminal charges spilled into public view.
Walker has been taking vitamins and drinking water and recently turned to bone broth. And the discussions surrounding changes to the law remain the key sticking in the budget talks as the deadline nears for a deal and final passage.
"Bail is being blamed for everything that happens in the state of New York, in the city of New York and quite frankly, now it's the reason for why the budget is not being finalized," Walker said on Wednesday.
Hochul is trying to expand the circumstances in which bail is considered, including repeat offenses and gun charges — changes Walker said are largely superficial given the previous additions to the 2019 law.
"That is definitely something being discussed," she said. "We all want to see public safety take place across the state of New York. But we also want to recognize both civil rights and constitutional rights are protected."
Hochul has said the budget is the best vehicle to address the growing concerns around public safety and crime in New York. She also wants to make changes backed by criminal justice reform advocates, such as providing tuition assistance to people in prison and sealing many criminal records.
But the bail changes have opened up a heated debate over the direction of public safety in the state amid a rise in violent crime across the country.
Republicans have hammered Democrats over the issue, and have signaled they will make concerns over crime a key plank in their campaign platforms this fall.
"What they've done, which is create a clear and immediate danger to every New York, means they need a lot more than a 10-point plan for every New Yorkers to feel safe again," said state Sen. George Borrello, a western New York Republican.
Hochul's proposed changes — both the top lines publicly released and an internal document leaked earlier this month — "are just tweaks," Borrello said.
"What we really need is a clean repeal and go back and start over again," he said.
But there are some signs of progress as the talks are held behind closed doors. Walker said she is open to making changes to a discovery law that has required faster access to evidence by prosecutors, but one local district attorneys have said has been difficult to implement. Hochul has also called for more funding to enact the reform.
"We are looking at it, we're discussing a number of different options we may be able to utilize, but we're not in a place yet where we have any definite answers on discovery reform," Walker said.