Sigh: The best any state leader is offering when it comes to fixing last year’s botched criminal-justice reforms is a deal cooked up behind closed doors and rushed through in the same cockamamie process that produced this mess in the first place.
On Wednesday, state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins backed Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s call to do it via the state budget, due April 1. But that means the two of them going behind closed doors to cut a deal with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie — who remains dead-set against any changes.
Cuomo nonsensically claims this closed-door process will be “transparent” — because “we’re having this conversation.” Huh? The key talks will still be secret; New Yorkers won’t learn the details until after they’re passed.
As the Citizens Budget Commission’s David Friedfel argues, what’s needed is stand-alone legislation that lets folks “reach out to elected officials before they vote.”
Of course, the whole closed-door budget process itself is a longstanding sham, one that regularly includes imposing new laws that have zilch to do with the budget.
That gives lawmakers cover for unpopular moves and lets them engage in ugly horse-trading. What will Heastie demand in exchange for bail-reform fixes? Yet there’s no reason to pay any price to repair the damage.
Cuomo and Stewart-Cousins see the writing on the wall: These changes are clearly driving up crime — and a furious public wants it fixed.
At minimum: Restore judges’ discretion to detain dangerous suspects and persistent offenders; protect witnesses; give prosecutors the time and resources to process evidence before sharing it with defendants’ lawyers.
None of the Democratic “big three” leaders is promising to address all those issues, so there’s no reason to think they’ll deliver a genuine fix in their backroom deal.
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