ALBANY — Assemblyman Joseph M. Giglio joined his colleagues in the Assembly Republican Conference Thursday to urge the Legislature to amend bail reforms enacted in this year’s state budget.
The called-for amendments are a response to bipartisan concerns about the ability of judges to hold dangerous criminals, such as high-level narcotics traffickers, violent offenders and other serious criminals, on bail.
“We’re in the final days of the legislative session, and there hasn’t been a single action to fix this massive problem with our justice system since this reform was passed in the dead of night,” Giglio, R-Gowanda, said. “Empowering our judges to hold violent criminals and high-level cartel members on bail is something we should all be able to agree on. It’s a public safety issue, not something we should be debating.”
Last week, even three Long Island Democratic senators said they want to scale back New York’s new law eliminating bail requirements in most criminal cases, the latest sign of tension between the liberal and moderate Democrats in the State Legislature.
State Sens. Monica Martinez, D-Brentwood, and James Gaughran, D-Northport, proposed legislation to restore judicial discretion to impose bail on a small number of crimes. Those include manslaughter, sex crimes against children, bribery of a public official and some terrorism-related charges.
Sen. Anna Kaplan, D-North Hempstead, also will be a bill co-sponsor, one of her aides said.
“These are crimes that (bail) needs to be considered when they come before a judge,” Martinez said. She said she was particularly concerned about gang- and drug-related crimes because of the presence of the violent MS-13 gang in Suffolk County.
“It’s no secret we have a problem in certain areas with gangs,” Martinez said. “We cannot tie (law enforcement’s) hands ... We need to make sure the public is kept safe.”
The second-guessing comes just two months after lawmakers approved a set of sweeping criminal justice changes, including a measure to end cash bail for an estimated 90 percent of those facing charges. It eliminated bail for almost all misdemeanors and some nonviolent felonies.
The criminal justice package was tucked into the state budget, meaning lawmakers had to accept it if they also wanted to approve a state aid increase for schools, a property-tax cap and other measures. Gaughran said he wouldn’t have voted for the bail changes if they had been in a stand-alone bill.
“I would not have voted for that bail bill had it not been included in the budget,” Gaughran said last week. We are fully committed to criminal justice reform. But we’re concerned about certain crimes where we have totally taken away a judge’s discretion.”