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Democrats open to making changes to bail reforms

As the ongoing state budget talks remain unresolved, top Democrats in the New York state Legislature have expressed their willingness to “clarify” the state’s 2019 bail law. State Assembly

Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins have indicated that they are open to a potential compromise on the bail issue, a move that Governor Kathy Hochul has supported.

The 2019 bail law ended the cash bail requirements for many criminal charges with the aim of creating a more equitable criminal justice system in the state and preventing low-income individuals from languishing in jail while awaiting trial. However, the law has faced criticism from New York voters, who have backed changes to the measure in light of the rise in crime that has coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bail law, along with Hochul’s proposed statewide housing plan, are the two primary issues in the budget talks. While officials acknowledge that the April 1 deadline for a budget is unlikely to be met, Heastie plans to keep lawmakers in Albany over the weekend to continue the talks.