Republicans will go all out on bail reform – The Legislative Gazette

Photo courtesy of the Senate Republican Conference
Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt on the podium joins New York City Council members Joe Borelli and Bob Holden at the entrance to Rikers Island in September 2021 to criticize the state’s bail system and the new “Less is More” law, which releases prisoners for technical parole violations.

Speaker Carl Heastie, who leads the New York State Assembly, seems to have a strong opinion on “bail reform” that seems to differ from that of Governor Kathy Hochul.

A bit of background: Democrats got their asses kicked in the last election on this. You will recall that the Liberal contingent in the Democratic-led New York State Legislature quite correctly passed legislation in an effort to even out the way the bail system of the State treated the suspects after their arrest. Those with resources could shell out the large sums needed to be released, while those without deep pockets had to languish in the pokey because they did not have the money to get out. This became a problem in the last election when the Democrats who sponsored the so-called bail reform bill discovered that they had lost middle-class voters who believed that people on bail bail were likely to continue and commit more crimes.

This led to problems for liberal Democrats and alienated some middle-class voters. In other words, the concept of bail reform was certainly correct in that it was philosophically correct, but it led to political problems for Democrats.

It should surprise no one that the message was received by battered Democrats who are now showing signs of division. On one side are the liberals in the state legislature. They are correct that the poor are more likely to have to stay in jail because of their inability to post bail. Meanwhile, wealthy and middle-class voters want protection and have reacted strongly against the idea of ​​bail reform. Never mind the statistical analysis that suggests those released are not committing crimes at the level suggested by critics of bail reform. But hey, political reality is what people believe, correctly or not.

This is where it gets interesting. Governor Hochul, who is no fool, gets the message and begins to suggest that the baby be separated. If I read her words correctly, she thinks dangerous people should be kept in prison while the powerful president, Carl Heastie, takes the politically and factually correct position that it is not right for the poor to remain in detention simply because that they can’t pay the deposit.

Clearly, Heastie needs to listen to what the Liberal Democrats in his conference are telling him while, like it or not, Governor Hochul knows which way the more conservative wind is blowing. It is clear that she sees the political danger there. If the Democrats continue to lose seats, their huge majority in both chambers could be threatened and his own electoral prospects will be diminished by his approval of this bail reform.

Since there is honor among politicians, I’m sure Heastie and Hochul understand and honor each other’s positions. Make no mistake: Heastie’s position is correct, so-called bail reform is a good idea. It’s just more proof that the political game is loaded in favor of those who have the money. As a person of color, Heastie knows this and understands what injustice is.

So what will happen? Obviously, the Governor has no cards to play since she cannot force the Legislative Assembly to do what she does not want to do. Republicans and conservatives have found a powerful card to play here. They win elections based on this split and are unlikely to change their position now. They think they have struck political gold and will play the bail reform card all the way. There may be an agreement between the President and the Governor to accommodate the difference of opinion. The President is right, and the Governor knows what to do to win an upcoming election.