If Elected, Oberacker Vows To Introduce
Senate Companion Legislation ‘On Jan. 1’
By JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
WAMPSVILLE – On the steps of the Madison County Courthouse here this morning, Assemblyman John Salka, R-121, announced his introduction of Bill A11067, which he said, if approved, would repeal the Democratic majority’s controversial bail reforms of 2019.
Salka said he plans to hold similar press conferences around the state to publicize his measure, including one next week in Otsego County, which he represents.
At his side was Peter Oberacker, Schenevus, the Republican seeking to succeed state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, who declared, “At this time, this bill does not have a Senate sponsor. Come Jan. 1, if I am elected, I can tell you that will change immediately.”
The new bail reforms have been controversial around the state, including in Otsego County, where as recently as Monday two defendants in cocaine-possession cases failed to show up for trial. “We’re two-for-two on no-shows,” said District Attorney John Muehl. “I knew this is exactly what was going to happen.”
Also, following a rash of car breakins in Oneonta last month, it was revealed one of the suspects had been arrested four times since early August, only to be released because of restrictions on setting bail.
Today, surrounded by a phalanx of blue uniforms, including Madison County Sheriff Todd Hood and Oneida County Sheriff Bob Maciol, immediate past president of the state Sheriff’s Association, Salka said the Democratic reforms are ruining “one of the finest systems of justice that mankind has ever known.”
He said the reforms have caused “upheaval in the criminal justice system, tying the hands of our law enforcement, our prosecutors and our justices. It is allowing those accused of a crime to go free.”
Salka ticked off a list of crimes he said the bail reform bars judge from setting bail: “aggravated assault of someone under 11 years old; criminally negligent homicide; grand larceny; promoting prostitution in a school zone; criminal facilitation in the first, second, third and fourth degree, including, but not limited to, providing support to people to commit murder, kidnapping, robbery, burglary, rape or aid to a person under 16 to commit a felony.”
The assemblyman said keeping addicts out of the justice system also prevents them from receiving needed help. And he said he will explore ways to attack pre-conditions of crime, such as poverty.
Interviewed later in the day, Salka’s opponent, Democrat Dan Buttermann, Oneonta, said, “What John’s bill does is ignore some of the corrections and amendments made this year.”
One change was to extend “discovery from 15 days to 20 for people in custody, and 35 for people who are not.” In that time, prosecutors are required to present evidence in their cases to defense lawyers.
That’s still not long enough, Buttermann said, particularly in drug cases, where it can take six months to get lab tests back, but it’s a start.
Also, judges were given more sway in deciding when to set bail to keep suspects in jail, particularly in the case of repeat offenders, another improvement, he said.
“Those were corrections to the bill,” and as other flaws become evident, they can be changed, too, said Buttermann. “…We need to keep talking about it. If his tour is about repealing this bill, I think this is the wrong direction to go.”
The Democratic challenger also pointed out that since Salka is a Republican, his bill has no chance of becoming law. In the past, Senator Seward, also a Republican, has introduced legislation to repeal the bail reform, to no avail.
Oberacker’s Democratic opponent in the 51st Senate District, Jim Barber of Middleburgh, was not immediately available to comment.
Assemblyman Brian Miller, R-New Hartford, was not there; a previously report was incorrect.