Area State Lawmakers Discuss 2020 Priorities

Priorities range from bail reform to more education aid

Tom Puckett
January 02, 2020 - 4:00 am

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Buffalo, NY (WBEN) A new year means a new legislative session. Area state lawmakers are talking about their biggest prioirites.

State Senator Patrick Gallivan says he wants to take a look at a $6 billion budget gap. "My goal is to close that deficit and do it without raising taxes and fees," says Gallivan. "The biggest portion comes form Medicaid and the gap that we face, and it's time we look closely at why Medicaid in New York on a per capita basis is more expensive than any other state in the country. That doesn't mean we have to cut services, we just need to look at how we can provide the services in a more cost efficient manner."

Gallivan also wants to do more to deal with the opioid crisis in New York and wants to address the move to single payer health insurance, because he doesn't think the state is in a position to handle that financially.

Gallivan also wants to reopen criminal justice reforms. "What we saw this past year was criminal justice policies that favored offenders over law abiding citizens. The one thing that I think we're going to have problems with is the elimination of cash bail in 90 percent of cases. Domestic violence, burglars, robbers, drug dealers, in those cases the judge does not have the ability to consider bail. I think we need to introduce the dangerousness of the offender and the let the judges be judges," says Gallivan, who says even with the change the overwhelming number of cases would not be eligible for bail but the more serious cases would.

RELATED: Cash bail eliminated for people accused of some crimes

State Senator Chris Jacobs agrees with Gallivan. "The changes made to our bail and discovery laws will make citizens less safe, and I will focus a lot on making things less safe," says Jacobs. He notes one case out of New York City. 

“Last week we saw a vile hate crime committed against members of New York’s Jewish community.  When the suspect was arraigned prosecutors did not even ask for bail because on January 1st this person would be released anyway thanks to Cuomo’s reckless new law,” said Jacobs.  “Who are we as New Yorkers and Americans if we are willingly freeing suspects who have committed hate crimes back into the public where they can cause further damage and danger?” Last week Jacobs says the suspect attacked three Jewish women, punching them, and yelling curse words at them. He says the suspect is a repeat offender with a felony sentence. Under Governor Cuomo’s new law, Jacobs says any non-sexual assault does not carry enough criminality to have bail set, so the suspect was released back into the public.  Following her release, she committed another violent attack yesterday and was arrested again.

“Governor Cuomo is quite literally protecting criminals with his new laws.  He is giving them a free pass to commit crime and is endangering all New Yorkers in the process,” said Jacobs.  “In this case his laws have allowed someone with a clear anger and hatred towards the Jewish community, who has already attacked members of it, to be released again and she committed another attack.”

Jacobs is also looking at rolling back new farming regulations. "When we were in debate in the farm bill, it was something I never saw before, where both farm owners and farm workers were opposed to it, but ideologues in New York City, who don't have any farms, passed it anyway," says Jacobs. "It really imposed rigid regulations and rules you would typically see in a factory." Farming is a weather dependent business, says Jacobs says the new rules would make it tougher on already struggling farmers. 

Education funding is on the mind of Assemblyman Sean Ryan. "We need to look at the formula used to distribute aid, and there are big problems with that formula," says Ryan.

 

Ryan says the formula favors wealthy downstate school districts. "In WNY, there's not one district that qualifies as high wealth, so we have a lot of districts like Frontier, Hamburg and Tonawanda that are doing ok, but they still need more state help," says Ryan. "They're stuck in the middle, and while the state does well for big cities, the formula tilts toward downstate schools." Ryan wants area districts to get their fair share.

On the mind of State Senator Tim Kennedy is funding for infrastructure. "We want to ensure we're not just at the table, but at the front of the table," says Kennedy. "We want to ensure millions of dollars of aid are making their way into Buffalo and WNY."

He emphasizes the Rebuild NY bill. "That's going to be a multibillion dollar, five year plan. We want to ensure the resources go to the places that need it most, so the aging infrastructure in cities like ours across upstate that have to deal with inclement weather all year get the road and infrastructure investment we deserve," says Kennedy. 

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