ALBANY — State Republican lawmakers on Monday unveiled a plan aimed at boosting public safety, a defining campaign pledge last election cycle for minority party politicians amid an increase in crime across New York.
Included in the both state State and Assembly proposals is a repeal of pretrial detention reform, as well as measures to protect victims’ rights, increase penalties for a number of offenses and reduce illegal weapons trafficking.
“Public safety is not a partisan issue,” said Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh, R-Ballston. “I implore the governor and legislative majorities to join us and members of law enforcement at the table so we can fix this ongoing problem and finally end the senseless violence around our state.”
Joining the press event Monday was Tammy Lee, a Johnstown woman whose 77-year-old father was allegedly killed by a recidivist criminal last year. State Sen. James Tedisco, R-Glenville, represented Lee’s area at the time of the tragedy.
“With Governor Hochul’s and the majorities’ criminal justice failures now, there needs to be a new name for ‘crime victims’: It’s ‘Forgotten People!’” Tedisco said in a new release, favoring efforts to repeal bail reform, a 2019 measure which reduces the number of offenses that require cash bail.
Progressive proponents of the twice-retooled reform have labeled the dissent as fear-mongering. Data recorded by the state Office of Division of Criminal Justice Services between July 2020 and June 2021 showed that, out of 100,000 pre-trial release cases, around 2% (2,051) resulted in violent recidivism — a statistic GOP lawmakers have said is unreliable.
Democratic Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara of Rotterdam has advocated for a full repeal of bail reform while Assemblyman Phil Steck, D-Colonie, has pushed for the measure to be retooled for domestic violence cases. Hochul has voiced support to consider further alterations to the law, but a full-on repeal is unlikely to pass the Democrat-controlled Legislature.
Hochul won in what was one of the closest gubernatorial elections in 28 years as she faced U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-Long Island, who blamed the governor for rising crime rates across the state. Zeldin’s influence is believed to be a key factor in flipping some of the state’s congressional seats from Democrat to Repuplican, helping give Republicans a razor-thin majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Crime remains a bipartisan concern for New Yorkers, according to a Siena College poll released earlier this week. The report found that more than half of Democrats and over two-thirds of Republicans consider crime a serious matter.
Also underscored in the GOP’s package are amendments to lower the age of criminal responsibility for firearm- and gang-related offenses. The Republicans’ Create A Safer New York bill would repeal the HALT Act, a criminal justice ban on solitary confinement and long isolation periods.
“These radical Democrats are playing with the lives of New Yorkers everywhere with their support of pro-criminal policies such as cashless bail, the HALT Act and lack of judicial discretion,” said Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-Schoharie. “We need change now more than ever, and if the majority cannot make the changes necessary, they do not deserve to be representatives of the state of New York.”
The bicameral GOP wish list was introduced as progressives vie to shoehorn a watered-down version of the Clean Slate Act into the legislative agenda. The bill, which would conditionally seal criminal records for those formerly convicted of some felonies and misdemeanors, hasn’t made much headway since introduced in 2020, but holds Hochul’s interest.
“What we have is a situation where progressive Democrats in New York City have an agenda that they’re trying to flip onto upstate New York where we don’t have the issues that they’re trying to solve,” Assemblyman Robert Smullen, R-Johnstown, told the Daily Gazette.
Meanwhile, Hochul is facing dissent from within party ranks as she considers a lawsuit to bring her nomination of Hector LaSalle as chief justice to a full Senate vote.
Progressives rejected the Court of Appeals justice on the basis of decisions out of favor with unions and reproductive rights advocates.
“It’s quite the situation when the progressive Democrats don’t believe a left-of-center jurist is acceptable to lead the court,” Smullen said. “It just shows you when you have very loud, vocal minority within a majority, how you can end up with people that are way too outsized in their voices.”
Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-527-7659 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ TylerAMcNeil.
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