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Hochul’s bail changes unlikely to get enough support from Dems to advance

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  • Staff Report 

As the state budget negotiations continue in New York, Democrats in the Legislature are opposing Governor Kathy Hochul’s proposed changes to the cashless bail law. The Democrats are seeking alternative ways to address public safety amidst a debate over the bail law, which could be a key issue in the coming state budget negotiations. The spending plan is due to pass by April 1, and the Democratic leadership of the state is at odds over how to address crime, which is a top-tier issue for most New York voters.

Governor Hochul wants to change the “least restrictive” requirement for judges when determining whether cash bail should be set for serious criminal charges. However, the Democrats have rejected the provision in their budget proposals and are calling for ways to address crime, such as adding support for legal services, including re-entry programs and crime prevention efforts.

The issue at hand is the 2019 change to New York’s law that ended cash bail requirements for many criminal charges. Supporters of the law contend that it was necessary to address inequities in the criminal justice system. However, opponents have linked the issue to a broader rise in crime over the last several years that has coincided with the COVID pandemic.

Advocates who have opposed further changes to the bail law have praised the decision by lawmakers to not embrace Hochul’s measures. New York State Director Alana Sivin said, “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.”

Governor Hochul has defended her support for the changes, arguing that 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. As the state budget negotiations continue, it remains to be seen whether Democrats will be able to find an alternative solution to address public safety that is agreeable to all parties involved.