Lawmakers under pressure as NY state budget deadline looms amid bail reform pushback

New York Governor Kathy Hochul and the state legislature are under pressure as the state budget is due in three days. 

One of the key points to strike a deal is bail reform. The governor wants to make changes to the bail reform laws that were passed in 2019, which eliminated the use of cash bail for most misdemeanors and some nonviolent felony charges.

However, she is getting pushback from her own party.

On Wednesday afternoon civil rights, faith, and community members representing black and Latino communities gathered in Harlem, calling on the state to not end but adjust the criminal justice laws, saying public safety is at play.

"We need to course correct, we overshot the runway," said Susan Lee, of the Alliance for Community Preservation and Betterment. The group is among those who pushed for bail reform since the start.

Hazel Dukes, President of the New York chapter of the NAACP says repeat offenders are terrorizing communities, and it's time to strike a balance and close some loopholes.

"We worked hard for criminal justice reform, we do not want to go back, we don't want our children sitting at Rikers because they are poor. We worked on these issues, but now we want you to strike a balance for justice," said Dukes.

Hochul wants to give judges more discretion to set bail, something many New York voters are in favor of. According to a Siena poll released on Monday 76% of Democratic voters support changes to the bail reform laws.

However, some, including the Legal Aid Society, reject changes to the law saying it will only lead to more pretrial caging of black and Latino New Yorkers, citing an open letter released by over 100 law professors from New York State law schools who say bail reform laws should be left as they are.

The final budget is due on April 1st.