Democrats in the state Legislature are entering the next phase of the state budget talks formally opposing Gov. Kathy Hochul's plan to change the state's cashless bail law as they seek alternative ways of addressing public safety.
A debate over the bail law could be a key issue in the coming state budget negotiations with a spending plan due to pass by April 1 and the Democratic leadership of the state at odds over how to address crime, a top-tier issue for most New York voters.
Hochul wants to end the "least restrictive" requirement for judges when determining whether cash bail should be set for serious criminal charges. Democratic lawmakers, however, rejected the provision in their budget proposals released on Tuesday and set to be voted on this week.
Instead, lawmakers are calling for ways of addressing crime such as adding support for legal services, including re-entry programs and crime prevention efforts.
At issue is a 2019 change to New York's law that ended cash bail requirements for many criminal charges. Supporters of the law have contended the measure was necessary in order to address inequities in the criminal justice system. Opponents have linked the issue to a broader rise in crime over the last several years that has also coincided with the COVID pandemic.
Advocates who have opposed further changes to the bail law praised the decision by lawmakers to not embrace Hochul's measures.
“We are hopeful that today’s budgets demonstrate lawmakers’ ongoing commitment to stand strong against any attempts to roll back bail reform, and to continue pursuing data-driven policies that actually make our communities safer," said FWD.us New York State Director Alana Sivin.
Hochul has defended her support for the changes, aruging the measures are about adding clarity for judges over when bail should be set. The governor's election campaign for a full term last year included a debate over the bail law and the package of criminal justice law measures approved in Albany in recent years.
Last year, Hochul was able to win bail law changes that expanded the circumstances in which bail could be considered.