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State Senator Jim Seward

SEWARD: Reforms May Be Costly, Dangerous

Albany Perspective

Reforms May Be

Costly, Dangerous

Jim Seward

Editor’s Note: State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, has represented Otsego County in Albany since 1986.

As we approach the start of 2020, there are a number of new laws that will take effect in New York State. Among them are provisions I am deeply concerned about that will put public safety at risk. The measures include:

• Bail changes that will allow 90 percent of individuals arrested to walk free without posting bail;

• New discovery laws that put increased demands on local prosecutors and could put crime victims and witnesses in danger.

These so-called “criminal justice reforms” put criminals first. When the measures were proposed in Albany, I spoke with district attorneys and law-enforcement officials in my state Senate district to gather information and gauge their thoughts on the changes. Many legal experts pointed out the dangerous, unintended consequences associated with these laws. I voted against the proposals.

While I am open to discussing changes that could better address the way bail is utilized, these laws go too far. Starting on Jan. 1, perpetrators arrested for manslaughter, assault, criminal possession of a gun, and a number of drug sale offenses will all be released without bail. These suspects will be back on the streets immediately even if they have a criminal past.

Judges will no longer have the ability to consider a defendant’s criminal history when determining bail.

This is of particular concern in domestic violence cases. A suspect will be released immediately, sent back into the community unsupervised, and have the ability to encounter the victim, the victim’s loved ones, and others.

When California became the first state in the country to eliminate cash bail, they provided for safeguards to ensure the protection of the community, including allowing courts to order defendants to report to a court officer or consent to monitoring such as ankle bracelets, as well as allowing preventive detention for those the court deems too dangerous to release. New York’s new reforms include none of these safeguards.

Along with the serious public safety concerns posed by the lack of bail, new discovery laws will force several unfunded mandates on our county district attorney offices and police departments. Small rural departments that are already understaffed and underfunded will need to hire personnel and purchase new computer systems to comply with new deadlines and requirements. In the end, taxpayers will be footing the bill to help with the defense of suspected criminals.

The District Attorneys Association of the State of New York finds it will cost $100 million for extra staff and other resources for offices outside of New York City to comply with the new discovery laws.

Recently, the state Sheriff’s Association, Association of Chiefs of Police and the District Attorneys Association held press conferences around the state calling for a delay in implementing these new laws.

The New York Conference of Mayors (NYCOM) is also calling on the state to hold off on the changes until sufficient time is allowed to fully understand the negative effects, and to make the necessary corrections.

I am co-sponsoring legislation to address the concerns regarding the changes in the bail and discovery laws:

• S.6839 – giving judges discretion to set bail in domestic violence cases;

• S.6840 – allowing judges to consider whether a defendant poses a danger to the community when determining bail;

• S.6849 – repealing criminal justice reforms enacted in the 2019-20 state budget including bail and discovery changes;

• S.6853 – placing a one-year moratorium on criminal justice reforms to hold statewide hearings on the measures.

Earlier this year, I helped advance several bills to protect crime victims and keep our communities safe.
Those bills, known as the Crime Victims’ Justice Agenda, never even received a vote. I will continue to advocate in favor of those measures in the upcoming legislative session. I will also be working to pass these new bills I am co-sponsoring to right a serious wrong and tilt the scales of justice back toward law-abiding citizens.

Springbrook Cuts Ribbon On New Oneonta Clinic

Springbrook Cuts Ribbon

On New Oneonta Clinic

Springbrook CEO Patricia Kennedy gets help from one of the organization’s residents, Ken Goodrich in cutting the ribbon, officially opening Springbrook’s new clinic at 438 Main St., Oneonta. State Senator Jim Seward, R-Milford, told the 100-member audience before the ribbon-cutting that Ms. Kennedy convinced Gov. Andrew Cuomo to open a seventh Care Coordination Organization (CCO), an arm of the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities that partner with providers of services for individuals with developmental disabilities to help them receive Medicaid support and other efforts. From left to right: Frank Panzerella, COO, Bassett Medical Group, Assemblyman John Salka, R-121, Mayor Gary Herzig, Sen. James Seward, Kennedy, Goodrich, Springbrook COO Seth Haight, Springbrook residents Bryan Holt, Steve Nechis, and Brian Weeks, and Clinical Officer Kathy Ramiza. In back are Derek Jackson and Southern Tier Connect’s Executive Director, Meghann Andrews. (Jennifer Hill/AllOTSEGO.com)

 

We’re Losing  Generation, And FY20 State Budget Does Nothing About It

COLUMN

We’re Losing Generation,

And FY20 State Budget

Does Nothing About It

By State Sen. JIM SEWARD, R-Milford

New York is losing population, a phenomenon known as outmigration.  We are one of the few states experiencing such a loss and in my mind, the best way to reverse the trend is by increasing affordability and boosting economic development.

I have emphasized those priorities since the start of the year, and highlighted them further during development of the state budget.  Unfortunately, the new state budget that was just approved falls flat on those top concerns.

The budget, which I voted against, spends too much and taxes too much, plain and simple.  New taxes on prescription drugs and medications, Internet purchases and grocery bags, to name a few, will hit everyone to the tune of more than $1.4 billion this fiscal year and $4.5 billion next year.

Along with the new taxes, the budget also forces new unfunded mandates on local governments – translating to higher property taxes.

The budget also fails to take any steps to generate economic development and help increase jobs.

Earlier this year, highly publicized actions by the Senate Democrats killed off a major expansion of Amazon set to take place in New York City.  Last year, when New York was the winning site for the Amazon HQ2 project, I raised questions because I was concerned with the lack of transparency involved in the deal and planned incentives.  However, I was supportive because of the positive economic impact Amazon would have brought to our entire state.

The only way Amazon would have received state incentives was by creating 25,000 new jobs, estimated to generate over $27 billion in tax revenue that would have benefited the whole state.  This state budget did nothing to help create new jobs or fill the revenue crater left by the destruction of the Amazon deal.

Another top priority I vocalized throughout the budget process was the need for regional parity.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), New York City’s public transportation network, is in disrepair and needs help.  While I am sympathetic, I also know that upstate roads and bridges are in dire need of upgrades.

The budget includes no increase for CHIPs funding that is crucial to upstate highway improvements and cuts $65 million to help with extreme winter recovery work.  However, the budget does include several provisions to advance money to New York City for MTA work.

A recent poll from Quinnipiac University revealed some disturbing results.  An increasing number of people feel they cannot afford to live in New York State, and many (35 percent) say they are planning to leave in the next five years to find better economic opportunities.

Even more disturbing, the number of people on their way out of the state goes up to 45 percent when talking to people age 18-34 – our next generation of entrepreneurs, local leaders, and families.

Since the beginning of the year, I have joined with my Senate Republican colleagues to offer a number of amendments and alternative policy ideas that were all rejected by the new Senate Majority, including:

  • Balancing the budget without raising or creating new taxes and fees;
  • Enshrining the state spending cap into law;
  • Accelerating and protecting the historic Middle Class Income Tax Cut previously enacted by Senate Republicans, which has already saved New Yorkers $770 million, and is one of the largest and most important tax cuts in state history;
  • Implementing significant business and energy tax cuts and regulatory reforms, so that there are fewer obstacles to creating new jobs in New York;
  • Ending unfunded mandates and ensuring that no new laws will be approved in Albany that pass costs on to our local governments and schools, and ultimately, our taxpayers.

While there were portions of the plan that I could support, overall the negatives far outweighed the positives.  The budget, increases taxes, does nothing to help struggling small businesses, ignores our upstate needs, and slaps more unfunded mandates on local governments.

James L. Seward, R-Milford, represents his home county of Otsego and eight other Central New York counties in the 51st Senatorial District.

 

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