Drug Law Reform Repackaged in Senate
March 6th, 2009
The Assembly passed a major drug law reform bill on Wednesday. Now in an attempt to get the bill through the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith has announced drug law reform will be considered as part of their budget proposal.
With a small majority and a few rogue members, Smith seems to hope drug law reform will be a less contentious issue if presented as part of the budget and as a money saving initiative.
At least one member of the Senate Majority has publicly opposed drug law reform. The Times Union reported that Senator Craig Johnson of Long Island has his “reservations.”
The statement from Smith’s office follows:
By David King on March 6, 2009, 12:15 pm
STATEMENT FROM SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MALCOLM A. SMITH, SENATOR ERIC SCHNEIDERMAN, SENATOR RUTH HASSELL-THOMPSON, AND SENATOR JOHN SAMPSON
Conference Discusses Rockefeller Drug Reform and
Announces Intention to Include in Budget Resolution
“Our Conference gathered Wednesday night to discuss proposed reforms to the Rockefeller Drug Laws, including the Governor’s proposed bill and the Aubry/ Schneiderman legislation (A.3984/S.2855). The conversation was thoughtful and frank, and our members expressed a consensus that we need to undertake Rockefeller Drug reform. At the conference, our members raised a number of issues and concerns that must be taken into consideration, specifically the importance of investing new economic development resources into the communities that currently house the potentially thousands of non-violent offenders who would instead enter drug treatment facilities under proposed Rockefeller Drug Law reform.
It became clear in our discussions that this is as much a budgetary and economic issue as it is a sentencing issue. For this reason, the Senate intends to include the key provisions of Rockefeller Drug Law reform in our upcoming budget resolution to ensure that:
· There is adequate funding for treatment facilities;
· We invest in communities that currently house non-violent offenders who will instead enter drug treatment facilities to mitigate any economic impact and diversify the local economy with new economic development initiatives;
· We secure additional funding for counties that incur additional costs because of local treatment and incarceration requirements. The proposed Executive Budget cuts back on funding for local probation—we will restore those funds to protect local municipalities from another unfunded mandate; and
· Expand judicial discretion to ensure that judges can make informed sentencing decisions.
We believe the best way to comprehensively achieve each of those goals would be to include these provisions as part of the State Budget.
As savings from Rockefeller Drug Law reform are realized, that funding will be dedicated to meeting the costs that may be incurred as a result of the reforms initiated. However, the Senate is currently working with our colleagues in government to determine what streams of funding in the federal stimulus package are also available to offset upfront costs that are incurred.
Rockefeller Drug Reform can be a win-win. We are addressing this issue in a diligent and prudent manner to protect communities, save taxpayers millions of dollars, and reduce the high rate of recidivism that occurs under the current policy. We look forward to negotiating an agreement with the Assembly and the Governor that helps us simplify and improve outdated sentencing laws.”
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