New York’s bail reform laws have been the topic of several conversations in the corridors of New York’s legislature. Governor Kathy Hochul, moderate Democrats, and Republicans have called for the laws to be changed. Progressive Democrats have called for the laws to remain as they are. This includes Senate and Assembly leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. However, a report by Politico indicates that while in public Assembly Speaker Heastie is pro-bail reform laws, in a recent private meeting there appears to be a shift in that thinking.
A meeting involving representatives for Governor Hochul, the Senate, and the Assembly was held on Tuesday, March 28th. During this meeting, the Assembly representative showed that there is a willingness to reword the bail laws with a change leaning towards what Governor Hochul wants. This would entail changing the “least restrictive means” standard used by the judges. It would be, after analysis of the facts surrounding a particular case, up to the judge what conditions to set to ensure an accused individual returns to court.
The Assembly’s reported desire to see a change in the bail reform laws is not final. It is a state of affairs that will still be up for discussion until the State’s final budget is decided. The report by Politico claims that neither the Senate nor Governor Hochul’s office has offered an opinion on the Assembly’s stance.
Governor Kathy Hochul has claimed that judges are not exercising their power to grant bail even in situations when they can. She has said that she wants to see judges set bail for suspects who have committed violent felonies, some examples of nonviolent felonies, and those who are accused of committing multiple crimes.
However, the changes proposed by Governor Hochul have been refused by those in other spheres. Progressive Democrats have repeatedly spoken in favor of the bail reform laws remaining as they were. Democrats from both the Senate and the Assembly have claimed that there is no connection between the laws and the increase in the number of violent cases committed in New York.
On Thursday, March 30th, City and State New York reported that rank and file Assembly Democrats would not accept any changes to the bail laws. “I feel the need to clarify that the Assembly Majority opposes any changes to weaken or upend the bail laws and subject more New Yorkers to the dangers of pretrial detention,” wrote Assembly Member Latrice Walker in a statement. Some law experts and public defenders have warned against the changes Governor Hochul desires, claiming they would alter the meaning and purpose of bail.