Summary of Assembly Budget Proposal

March 15, 2018

Election Reform

Assemblymember Tremaine Wright (D-Brooklyn) announced that she helped pass the Assembly’s 2018-19 budget proposal, which authorizes and funds early voting in New York State, allowing Bedford Stuyvesant & Parts of Crown Heights residents more time to make it to the polls. The plan also closes the limited liability corporation (LLC) loophole to increase transparency in the funding of election campaigns. The Assembly has long been supportive of reforms that not only increase access to voting, but also make meaningful changes to the way campaigns are financed.

Funding Early Voting

The Assembly proposal includes $7 million to institute early voting and other voting reforms statewide, which would help to offset some of the costs to counties from conducting elections. Early voting would take place during a seven-day period before any general, primary or special election. During the early voting period, designated polling locations would be required to be open for eight hours on weekdays and five hours on weekends and holidays, and to offer evening hours on at least two days.

Closing the LLC Loophole

For far too long, the LLC loophole has enabled individuals and corporations to circumvent campaign finance laws and make unlimited contributions to the same candidate, political party or campaign committee under the guise of different LLCs. Each LLC is treated as an individual donor, even if multiple LLCs are owned by the same person or entity, which makes it harder to determine the real contributor.

By closing the LLC loophole, we can increase transparency, help level the playing field and prevent the wealthy few from making nearly unlimited campaign contributions to further their special interests.”

The Assembly’s measure extends the $5,000 aggregate contribution limit, already applicable to corporations, to include LLCs, and requires LLCs to disclose the names of individuals with membership interests, attributing LLC contributions to them and helping get rid of dark money in our elections.

Investing in public Schools to Provide a Quality Education for All

The Assembly’s plan provides a total of $27.1 billion in education funding. That’s an increase of $1.5 billion – or 5.9 percent – over the previous year. Foundation Aid would be increased by $1.2 billion for the 2018-19 school year for a total of $18.4 billion, bringing all schools to at least 50 percent of their total Foundation Aid. The budget proposal also includes a multi-year phase-in of Foundation Aid, ensuring that all school districts would receive their full Foundation Aid by the 2021-22 school year.

Additionally, the Assembly budget proposal increases funding for prekindergarten programs to $50 million.

The Assembly proposal includes $7 million for the Supportive Schools grant program to help districts improve school climates, make schools safer and implement the Dignity for All Students Act, which aims to foster a safe and supportive school environment free from discrimination, harassment and bullying.

The Assembly’s proposal also provides $200 million to community schools, which is a $50 million increase over last year, and provides $1.5 million for mental health grants and specifies that the funding may be used for social workers.

The Assembly’s proposal provides $1 million for bilingual education grants, as well as $770,000 for training programs for teachers in bilingual and multilingual education.

To further strengthen education services, the Assembly’s budget proposal includes:

  • $34 million in restorations for summer school programs for school-aged children who require special education services;
  • $14.3 million for Teacher Resource and Computer Training Centers;
  • $10 million in additional funding for after-school programs, including $5 million in restorations to the Advantage After School program;<.li>
  • a $2.3 million increase in funding for 4201 schools, which serve blind and deaf students, for a total of $105.4 million;
  • $1.5 million in restorations for the Consortium for Worker Education (CWE), for a total of $13 million, to provide career training and job placement services;
  • $1.5 million to restore funding for adult literacy education, for a total of $7.8 million;
  • $1 million in additional funding for independent living centers, for a total of $14.4 million; and
  • $500,000 for the Teacher Diversity Pipeline pilot to help more teachers’ aides become teachers.

This year, the Assembly has allocated $18 million in ongoing funding for My Brother’s Keeper programs, as well as $800,000 for the Office of Family and Community Engagement at the State Education Department.

In addition, the Assembly plan provides $7 million in startup funding for Breakfast After the Bell, as well as $5 million to support these programs. The Assembly increases flexibility for school districts in the program, allowing schools to apply for waivers if they are already running successful programs.

The Assembly also includes $750,000 for Farm to School grants – a program spearheaded by the Assembly that began in 2016 – which encourage schools to purchase food from local farmers and expand access to healthy foods for students. This brings total funding for the program to $1.5 million.

Protecting Public Libraries

The Assembly’s budget proposal restores $4 million in aid to public libraries, for a total of $95.6 million. It also provides an additional $50 million over the executive proposal in construction grants for libraries, for a total of $64 million.

Making Higher Education More Affordable and Accessible

The Assembly budget proposal continues the Higher Education Road to Success Initiative by making a $16 billion investment to promote college affordability in New York State.

The Assembly also continues the Excelsior Scholarship, which makes SUNY and CUNY schools tuition-free for New Yorkers who earn less than $110,000 this year ($125,000 when fully phased in). Students who attend a private college in New York and earn less than $110,000 this year ($125,000 when fully phased in) would also be eligible for a scholarship award of $6,000.

The plan restores $24.6 million in aid to private colleges, known as Bundy Aid, and builds on the successful Foster Youth College Success Initiative started in 2015 by providing $6 million to support foster students on their path to higher education. Other measures include a new $25 million Martin Luther King, Jr. non-tuition scholarship to help close the affordability gap for even more families across the state.

Expanding Opportunity Programs and Tuition Assistance

The Assembly budget restores all college opportunity programs and increases their funding by $23.8 million – or 20 percent. The proposal allocates:

  • $41.4 million for the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), a $5.9 million increase;
  • $37.5 million for the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), a $5.4 million increase;
  • $32.8 million for Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge (SEEK), a $4.7 million increase;
  • $21.4 million for Liberty Partnerships, a $3.1 million increase;
  • $18.4 million for the Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP), a $2.6 million increase;
  • $13.9 million for the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (C-STEP), a $2 million increase; and
  • $1.6 million for College Discovery, a $225,000 increase.

Keeping the DREAM Alive

Included in the Assembly budget proposal is the New York State Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which expands access to higher education for the children of immigrants.

The DREAM Act would give undocumented college-bound students who meet certain eligibility requirements – such as attending high school in New York – access to the state Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and other educational assistance programs, including the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), Collegiate Science and Technology Program (C-STEP) and similar programs at community colleges.

Criminal Justice Reform

The Assembly’s 2018-19 state budget proposal includes meaningful policies to confront sexual harassment.

The proposal provides the state Attorney General the authority to prosecute criminal cases and defend civil cases for all protected classes and preserves a plaintiff’s right to confidentiality. It also allows a state or local government that has paid a victim on behalf of a public employee to recover payment from the employee responsible for the harassment. Further, it would require a neutral third-party arbitrator, ban mandatory arbitration agreements, void clauses in employment contracts that waive rights relating to discrimination claims and establish annual reporting requirements for employers related to discrimination.

In addition, under the proposal, the state Division of Human Rights would develop a model policy that would be made publicly available, and all employers, employment agencies and licensing agencies would be required to have a policy in place that meets the minimum standard established by the model policy. The Division of Human Rights would also be required to establish a 24-hour complaint hotline and develop informational materials for employers. Entities participating in any state or local competitive bidding process or applying for any state or local tax credit would also be required to have a policy prohibiting discrimination, including sexual harassment.

The Assembly’s 2018-19 state budget proposal contains comprehensive reforms to New York’s criminal justice system to help ensure all who encounter it are treated fairly and equally. These measures build on last year’s Raise the Age law by reforming the cash bail system and solitary confinement policies and ensuring speedy trials.

Reforming the Cash Bail System

Up to 60 percent – and up to 75 percent in New York City – of inmates in local jails are awaiting trials, not serving a sentence.1 Economic barriers should not determine whether a person, who has only been accused of certain offenses but not convicted, is stuck sitting in jail. The Assembly’s budget proposal reforms New York’s bail process and removes these barriers to create a more equitable bail process. Specifically, the proposal would eliminate cash bail in most instances for persons charged with misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies and require the court to impose the least restrictive alternative that would reasonably assure the defendant’s return to court. The Assembly’s proposed budget includes $5 million in additional funding to support the implementation of the bail reform provisions.

Under the plan, charitable bail organizations would be authorized to post bail of up to $10,000, and would no longer be limited to operating in only one county.

The proposal would also allow the court to waive certain surcharges and fees for defendants under the age of 21 where such surcharges or fees impose an undue hardship or prevent successful reintegration, or where waiver would be in the interests of justice.

Ensuring Speedy Trials and Modernizing Discovery Laws and Grand Jury Proceedings

This measure would implement many recommendations by expert panels and bar groups in New York and reflects the broader, expedited discovery of evidence approach that has long existed in many states throughout the nation. The plan would preserve current law that allows a protective order to be obtained to prohibit, condition or limit disclosure of evidence when there is a belief that sensitive information could be used to threaten or intimidate a witness.

Another component of the budget would enact a reform of the speedy trial provision of New York’s Criminal Procedure Law. This would encourage judges to inquire as to whether the prosecution is, in fact, ready for trial when the prosecution claims readiness.

The right to a speedy trial is a constitutionally guaranteed right, but far too often the wheels of justice grind criminally slow. The proposal, known as “Kalief’s Law,” is named after Kalief Browder who was imprisoned at age 16 for nearly three years at Rikers Island awaiting trial over a stolen backpack.

The Assembly’s budget also includes a measure to increase transparency in grand jury proceedings when a court determines disclosure of certain information is in the public interest. The proposal would allow the court to release certain grand jury information in cases where a felony indictment is not returned by the grand jury. The court would be required to afford the prosecutor or any other relevant persons the opportunity to be heard, consider several factors in determining whether or not disclosure is appropriate and redact personally identifying information.

Reducing Solitary Confinement

The Assembly’s budget proposal would prohibit placement in segregated confinement of inmates who are 21 years of age or younger, 55 years of age or older, mentally, physically or intellectually disabled, pregnant, in the first eight weeks of post-partum recovery, or in a jail or prison newborn nursery program. For all other inmates, the bill would enact strict limits on the use and duration of solitary confinement.

End Certain Unfair and Discriminatory Practices

Among other measures in the Assembly’s budget are proposals designed to end certain unfair and discriminatory practices. One component would prohibit law enforcement officers from using racial or ethnic profiling during the performance of duties. Under the plan, law enforcement agencies would be required to adopt written policies prohibiting racial and ethnic profiling, develop procedures for complaints and corrective action and require the collection and reporting of data about motor vehicle and pedestrian stops by agency personnel.

The spending plan also includes language that would provide for the automatic sealing of the records of certain low-level convictions for possession of marijuana and prohibit the waiver of such sealing as part of a plea agreement in order to avoid the unfair stigma of a lifelong criminal record.

The Assembly’s budget would also expand the availability of the judicial diversion for treatment to include additional types of charges, such as conspiracy in the fourth or third degree, auto stripping and certain identity theft crimes. Individuals charged with these offenses are sometimes addicted to drugs or alcohol and commit these crimes to help raise money to support a drug or alcohol habit. This proposal would allow courts to order such individuals to treatment and upon successful completion, dismiss the criminal case.

Improving Transparency and Accountability

To help instill greater confidence in our criminal justice system, the Assembly’s budget would establish an Office of Special Investigation within the offices of the New York State Attorney General to investigate when a civilian dies either in law enforcement custody or after an encounter with a law enforcement officer.

The proposal would also require the court to disclose the charges and the legal instructions submitted to the grand jury in such cases when there was grand jury consideration but no indictment.

Collecting Better Data to Evaluate Criminal Justice Polices

The Assembly’s budget also includes the STAT Act, which would provide greater transparency by collecting and publically reporting critical policing data from across the state. Under the plan, the chief administrator of the courts would be required to compile data on misdemeanor offenses and violations, broken down by county, and share the information with the Legislature and the public.

The plan would also require the chief of every police department, every county sheriff and the superintendent of state police to promptly report to the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) all arrest-related deaths.

The Assembly’s proposed budget also restores $2.83 million in Legal Services Assistance Fund (LSAF) support for civil and criminal legal services grants.

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1. nytimes.com/2018/02/11/nyregion/judge-says-new-yorks-bail-law-treats-poor-unfairly.html