Campaign takes center stage
There is some merit to pieces of legislation approved recently in both the state Senate and the state Assembly.
Unfortunately, because the state budget is finished and campaign mode has begun, one-house bills are all the public is likely to see this year.
The Assembly approved legislation earlier this year would encourage judges to inquire as to whether the prosecution is, in fact, ready for trial when the prosecution claims readiness. Under New York’s statutory speedy trial rules, the prosecution must generally be “ready for trial” within six months for a felony charge and 90 days for a misdemeanor charge. The legislation — which garnered a yes vote from state Assemblymen Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, and Joseph Giglio, R-Gowanda — could help decrease the amount of time it takes for a case to make it to trial and lessen the number of times people commit multiple crimes while waiting for cases to be heard in a county or city court.
The legislation is similar to one of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposals from his State of the State address. Cuomo also proposed bail reform, namely eliminating cash bail for misdemeanor and non-violent felony charges, something that could be beneficial to many decent and well-meaning people if the legislation is written properly.
The state Senate, meanwhile, recently passed several pieces of legislation that would keep those convicted of violent crimes behind bars longer. Separate pieces of legislation would deny conditional release for any individual convicted of first-degree manslaughter, authorize the state Parole Board to require a violent felony offender to serve his or her maximum term if release would pose an imminent threat to society, authorize imposition of life imprisonment without parole for persistent violent felony offenders, defined as someone who has been convicted on at least two previous and separate occasions of violent felony offenses such as kidnapping, first degree rape, arson, among others; make the sentence for first-degree murder life imprisonment without parole; and prohibit convicted sex offenders from serving sporadic prison sentences, such as serving sentences on weekends while being out on the streets during the week.
As we said, campaign mode is in full swing, so don’t plan on seeing these common-sense pieces of legislation make it to the governor’s desk for a signature any time soon. The Assembly legislation is part of a bigger legislative package that most Republicans’ can’t pass in good conscience. The Republican legislation, meanwhile, keeps convicted felons in jail longer, something no Democrat wants on the public record in a campaign year.
It’s all or nothing in a campaign year — and we will get nothing.