Gov. Cuomo address includes proposals to eliminate bail for low-level offenses, Roe v. Wade codification
Wednesday, January 3, 2018 - 5:39 pm

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2018 State of the State Address calls for dozens of reforms at the state level, including eliminating bail for low-level offenses and codifying Roe vs. Wade into state law.

Here is a summary of some of the proposals:

• Codify Roe v. Wade into state law: For years, Cuomo’s office says the governor has “pushed” to codify the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision and subsequent rulings into state law to “secure a woman's access to reproductive health options.” This year, Cuomo will again call for the passage of legislation to “ensure the rights of women to make personal health care decisions to protect their health in addition to their life, and to ensure that health care professionals can provide these crucial services without fear of criminal penalty.” The governor will also continue to “champion a constitutional amendment” to codify these protections into the state constitution, according to a news release from his office.

• Make the state's county shared services panels permanent in an effort to try to reduce local property taxes: The state will provide $225 million in the 2019 budget to meet the match commitment of the County Wide Shared Services Initiative and Cuomo will “work to make the state's successful county-wide shared services panels permanent in order to institutionalize savings initiatives,” the release says. The governor proposes that state funding for local government performance aid be conditional on the continuation of shared services panels. The state will also ease rules on the creation of local healthcare consortia to reduce local health insurance costs, Cuomo’s office said. The governor will direct the New York State Department of Financial Services to publish guidance and provide technical assistance to local governments in order to ease the process of creating health consortia, specifically for smaller municipalities. The governor has directed the Department of State and other agencies to continue to work with local municipalities to examine other legal and policy impediments to shared services by municipalities, such as zoning and other functions, to be considered this session. Additionally, to help communities across the state take advantage of Smart Street Lighting technology and its taxpayer savings and energy efficiency benefits, Cuomo will launch a statewide Smart Street Lighting program to convert 500,000 street lights to LED technology by 2025, his office said. This program has the potential to reduce energy consumption annually across the state by 482 gigawatt hours, the equivalent of 44,770 households, save taxpayers $87 million annually, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the quality of light and safety of communities across the state, according to the governor’s office. Finally, Cuomo wants to continue the state's local property tax relief program that his office says will provide an average reduction of $380 in local property taxes to 2.6 million homeowners this year alone.

• Reshape bail and pretrial detention: When New York's laws governing bail were enacted back in the 1970s they were among “the most progressive in the nation. Unfortunately, the status quo is no longer acceptable,” according to Cuomo’s release. The governor is proposing legislation that will eliminate monetary bail for people facing misdemeanor and non-violent felony charges. Instead, people will be released either on their own recognizance or with non-monetary conditions imposed by the court, such as reporting to a pretrial services agency. For people charged with a violent felony offense, both monetary and non-monetary bail will be permitted, but only after a judge conducts an individualized review of the nature of the case and the defendant's personal and financial circumstances, Cuomo’s office said. If monetary bail is set, the court must give the defendant a choice between cash or bail industry bonds and an alternative form of bail such as an unsecured or partially secured bond. Additionally, in limited cases such as domestic violence offenses, cases involving serious violence, or when a defendant commits a new crime while out on pretrial release, a judge could order, after due process, a defendant to be held in jail pretrial without bail if they find the defendant poses a significant flight risk or if there is a current threat to a reasonably identifiable person's physical safety, according to the release.

• Ban “lunch shaming” statewide: So-called “lunch shaming” is what Cuomo’s office calls “a disgraceful practice in some schools” where children are “publicly humiliated in front of their peers by adults” for not having money for lunch. The governor’s office says he will propose a law that when passed, would immediately end the practice.

• Launch the second phase of the Excelsior Free Tuition Program: Last year, Cuomo created the Excelsior Scholarship to provide free tuition at New York's public colleges and universities for middle class families. Along with other sources of tuition assistance, including the New York State Tuition Assistance Program, the Excelsior Scholarship allows approximately 53 percent of full-time SUNY and CUNY in-state students, or more than 210,000 New York residents, to attend school tuition-free, according to figures from Cuomo’s office. In 2019, the Excelsior Scholarship will enter year two of a three-year phase-in. Starting in the 2018-19 academic year, the scholarship income eligibility threshold will increase, allowing New Yorkers with household incomes up to $110,000 to be eligible. To continue this program, the governor is proposing $118 million to support 27,000 students.

• Invest $750 million for round eight of the Regional Economic Development Councils: Cuomo created the Regional Economic Development Council competition in 2011 to fund statewide private and public development projects. The state has invested more than $5.4 billion through the REDCs that has funded more than 6,300 projects and supports more than 220,000 jobs across the state, according to figures from the governor’s office. Cuomo proposes continuing this regional economic development approach with an eighth round of the REDC awards with $750 million to fund regional priority projects.

• Reverse the opioid epidemic: Cuomo is proposing a “comprehensive plan” to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for perpetuating the epidemic, according to his office. That includes “[strengthening] protections against addiction stemming from prescription opioids; [taking] steps to eliminate insurance barriers to addiction treatment and recovery services; [directing] state agencies to implement regulatory and policy reforms that increase access to substance use disorder services; and [advancing] legislation to add 11 fentanyl analogs to Schedule I of the controlled substance schedules of New York State Public Health Law.”

• Early voting, automatic voting registration, same-day voter registration: New York is one of only 13 states where early voting is not available and an excuse is required to request an absentee ballot. Cuomo proposes instituting early voting in the state, requiring every county to offer residents access to at least one early voting poll site during the 12 days leading up to Election Day. Counties must have one early voting poll site for every 50,000 residents, and voters will have at least eight hours on weekdays and five hours on weekends to cast early ballots, Cuomo’s office said. The governeor also proposes adopting a system that implements automatic voter registration, “streamlining” state services by automatically sending voters' information from relevant agencies directly to the County Board of Elections, his office siad. New York does not currently allow voters to register to vote on Election Day. Cuomo proposes to allow New Yorkers to register and vote on the same day so that “onerous registration deadlines do not prevent New Yorkers from having the opportunity to participate in the electoral process,” the release said.