Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny: Assembly’s Work in 2009 Will Help Make New York Stronger
January 5, 2010
It’s been a trying year for many New Yorkers, who are understandably frustrated with the economy, the rise in unemployment, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the widespread state deficits that plague the country. Through it all, the Assembly was hard at work in 2009, passing legislation that makes New York a better state. The Assembly passed laws enacting sweeping public authorities reform, saving taxpayers money through government consolidation and Tier V state pension reform, cracking down on sex offenders and passing the toughest DWI law in the country. In addition, the Assembly twice closed large budget deficits, charted a new economic and environmental path through the Green Jobs, Green New York law, and reformed the state’s outdated Rockefeller Drug Laws. Increasing transparency and reforming the state’s public authorities By stepping up accountability and shedding new light on the more than 700 public authorities operating with startling autonomy throughout New York, the Assembly provided much-needed reform to the quasi-governmental agencies (Ch. 506 of 2009). For years I have been acutely aware that the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the Thruway Authority and others have operated largely without government oversight and with limited public scrutiny. Because these authorities are in need of serious reform, the Assembly passed a law streamlining public authority operations and increasing oversight. Too often, public authorities have lost their focus – burning through money and straying more and more from their mission statements. The Assembly recognized this needed to be changed and spearheaded these new reforms. Rockefeller Drug Law reform When the Assembly helped enact the 2009-2010 state budget, it also instituted the most far-ranging reforms to the 35-year-old draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws in a generation. These reforms restored to judges their discretion to sentence many drug offenders to alternatives to incarceration, but maintained the maximum penalties for those most deserving of such sentences. The reforms will save New York taxpayers the millions of dollars it costs to incarcerate these non-violent offenders – and make the criminal justice system more effective and fair in such cases – by:
- restoring sentencing discretion to judges by making, in many instances, probation a sentencing option and expanding other sentencing and substance abuse treatment options as alternatives to incarcerating these offenders in state prison; and
- providing a framework for the successful reentry of drug offenders into society after completing their sentences, thereby reducing recidivism and helping to eliminate the scourge of drug abuse in our communities.