Gov. Kathy Hochul’s budget proposal for public safety includes expanding funding for gun violence prevention initiatives, increasing prosecutors’ funding, and revising the state’s bail rules.
As negotiations begin, the governor is trying to win over fellow Democrats who now control both chambers of the Legislature and have voiced reluctance to reconsider recently passed measures.
After presenting her $227 billion state budget proposal last week, Hochul said, “I’m looking forward to a constructive conversation with the Legislature about our bail laws.”
The governor asserts that judges are confused due to “conflicting language” that she encouraged lawmakers to include in the budget from the previous year.
Hochul wants to clarify the situation by removing language requiring judges to apply the “least restrictive” conditions to ensure a defendant would appear in court from the 2019 bail reform law, which eliminated cash bail and forced release for most of the misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies.
The governor stated last week when presenting her executive budget proposal, “We looked at this very deliberately and understood what judges are telling us—they don’t have the clarity that they need to have when someone is before them and satisfies the conditions of being eligible for bail, in particular.
“You understand what criteria they use to determine whether or not to impose bail or not or let someone out, impose bail or remand?”
Last year, Hochul successfully got language into the state budget to give judges additional leeway when setting bail for serial criminal defendants possessing firearms or violating protective orders.
These modifications dragged out discussions with the Legislature and caused the budget to be passed more than a week after the original deadline of April 1.
Hochul’s current budget plan includes a legislative proposal that would allow judges to take into account a defendant’s “activities and history,” prior convictions for crimes, past use or possession of a firearm, whether there is an allegation of causing serious harm, as well as their financial situation when setting bail.
It is unclear whether politicians will be willing to make additional changes since several prominent Democrats in the Senate and Assembly have stated that more information is required to comprehend the cashless bail system’s effects fully.
The governor’s effort for additional bail reforms follows a closer-than-expected victory in the general election over Republican Lee Zeldin, who repeatedly attacked Hochul on crime and public safety issues during the campaign.
It has been repeatedly noted by supporters of New York’s cashless bail system that there is no evidence linking the new bail regulations of 2019 to an increase in crime.
According to Assemblywoman Latrice Walker (D-Brooklyn), eliminating the least restrictive threshold will “send more Black and Brown people to jail pretrial without boosting public safety.”