Bail reform proposals may be attached to state budget, putting lawmaking in tight spot

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While lawmakers in Albany are debating over the new state budget, there's a side issue they're considering that could be included in the spending plan – bail reform.

Changes that took place last month to the state's criminal justice reform bill have become such a controversial subject that Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that he's open to putting any proposed amendments to the law in the budget.

Some consider that a shrewd political move since it essentially forces legislators who want to vote against bail reform changes to also vote against proposed tax cuts, school aid to their local districts and other items that are in the budget.

Former Assemblyman Jerry Kremer says the governor often takes controversial issues and puts them in the budget, putting lawmakers on the spot.

"If they don't vote for this budget, with whatever is in there, then they're also voting against all sorts of programs. So it's one package, take it or leave it," says Kremer.

State Sen. Monica Martinez, of Brentwood, is among those who say bail reform shouldn't be lumped into the budget. She's sponsoring a bill that would give judges more discretion when it comes to detaining suspects after their arrest.

"This is something we should do as a stand-alone bill in the Senate. This is something that we look at together," says Martinez. "This should be something that each legislator should vote on."

The state budget is due April 1. If bail reform is not included in it, legislators would have several more months to act on it. Their yearly session ends in mid-June.


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