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Don’t Push Criminal Justice Reforms Through As Part Of The Budget

Unless the state is suddenly willing to attach money to help local police departments and prosecutors meet its criminal justice reform guidelines, changes to the system should be removed from the state budget process.

The reason is simple — the law written last year as part of the budget process is so flawed, so devoid of common sense, that trying to fix it as part of a rushed budget process that has little public input likely dooms state residents to second attempt to reform the state’s criminal justice reforms.

Dozens of pieces of legislation have been introduced dating back to last fall that present a variety of lawmakers’ opinions on criminal justice reform. Some want to tweak the system a little bit. Some want to repeal the 2019 criminal justice reform legislation and start over again. There is no way to make all of those legislators — or their constituents — happy, but a public process at least puts all of the suggestions and proposals out for discussion publicly on the floor of the state Legislature rather than letting the discussion be driven behind closed doors by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Hessite and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and then railed through the legislature in the midst of thousands of pages of budget bills.

We highly doubt there is any state money coming to help prosecutors and police meet the state’s changes to discovery rules, not with the state facing a budget deficit. That makes changes to the state’s criminal justice statutes a program bill, not a spending bill.

Don’t repeat the mistakes of the past by ramming criminal justice reforms through the legislature as part of the budget. Legislators should debate criminal justice reform on its own merits. Doing so might result in a piece of legislation worth passing.

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