Stefanik bill would give grants to states that allow judges more discretion in setting cash bail

Stefanik bill would give grants to states that allow judges more discretion in setting cash bail

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, along with her House GOP colleagues from New York, introduced legislation that would provide a cash incentive for the state to allow judges more discretion in setting bail in money.

The legislation, called the Stop Repetition of Violence and Endangering Our Communities Act, or SERVE Act, would create a $10 million grant program that would be available in states with laws that allow judges to set cash bail if they consider the arrested individual to be dangerous.

Judges in New York do not have that discretion for crimes that are exempt from parole under the state’s 2019 parole reform law.

Grants will be available to states and local municipalities to implement programs to reduce the chances of individuals committing repeat crimes.

Grant recipients will be required to hire or retain police officers, or conduct a public awareness campaign to counter “anti-police” sentiment, according to a press release from Stefanik’s office.

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“Far Albany’s reckless and dangerous parole reform policies have already put our communities at risk,” Stefanik said in the press release. “My legislation will encourage New York State to implement policies that correct their mass surveillance and hold repeat offenders accountable.”

Rep. U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, opposes the legislation, saying federal funding for police departments, in general, and for reducing illegal guns, is the best way to tackle crime.

“My Republican colleagues are pushing a messaging bill that represents an unnecessary federal overreach into what is essentially a state issue — something they would normally oppose,” Tonko said in a statement. “If my colleagues want to get serious about protecting our communities, they must work together with us to deliver meaningful gun safety legislation.”

Stefanik said the National Association of District Attorneys, the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Association of Police Organizations and the Organization of Major Cities Chiefs have endorsed the legislation.

Contacted for a response to the legislation, Avi Small, a spokesman for Gov. Kathy Hochul, said in a statement: “Governor Hochul is proud to have invested more than $433 million to support New York’s police departments, sheriff’s offices, of probation and district attorneys. offices, and as part of the statewide she is proposing to open an unprecedented, four additional classes of state police and triple funding for district attorneys’ offices to hire hundreds of new prosecutors.”

Rep. Marc Molianaro, R-Red Hook, however, said crime is increasing.

“Enough is enough: Albany’s parole reform experiment has failed,” Molinaro, a co-sponsor, said in Stefanik’s press release. “We are working to improve public safety in New York and prevent more senseless tragedies.”

The legislation comes after Hochul, a Democrat, has indicated she is willing to revise the state’s 2019 parole reform law.

Hochul, without elaborating on specifics, called in her Jan. 10 State of the State address for “a thoughtful conversation” about parole reform.

In response to the governor’s speech, local state Sens. Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, and Jake Ashby, R-Castleton, both said restoring judicial discretion is a substantial modification of current law, while Sen. James Tedisco, R-Glenville, insisted on the complete repeal of the law.

The law eliminated the cash bail option for most non-violent crimes. The intention was that people accused of minor crimes should not be imprisoned for long periods of time awaiting trial, simply because the individuals could not afford bail.

Critics of the parole reform law say it has led to an increase in crime.

Supporters say the parole reform law is not the cause of the increase in crime.

Maury Thompson covered local government and politics for The Post-Star for 21 years before retiring in 2017. He continues to follow regional politics as a freelance writer.

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