Indigent Legal Services

This week, I joined Senator John DeFrancisco in announcing legislation(S-6341/A-6202B) that will address funding of indigent legal services (ILS) by the State of New York. This legislation would require the state to reimburse counties for providing indigent legal service and eliminate the geographic disparity that prevents New Yorkers from receiving effective representation.

We were joined by county officials, fellow legislators, and advocates here in Albany to support the legislation

Almost one year ago to the day, I joined Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy and former Judge Larry Rosen in discussing their legislative proposal to improve indigent legal service yet relieve the unfunded mandate on counties. One year later, with key Senate majority sponsorship, this legislation has renewed momentum.

This bill would provide counties with serious fiscal mandate relief by providing a full state fiscal takeover of indigent defense services in the next four years. The proposed legislation would ensure that first-rate legal representation for indigents not be compromised and relieve county taxpayers from the state’s responsibility.

Counties are currently responsible for funding indigent legal services, and many counties do not have a system of supervising caseloads nor standards to ensure comparable compensation for defense attorneys. The bill will amend the law to provide for the state to take over full funding of the program in four years and relieve all counties of this fiscal mandate.

Now is the time to fully realize this constitutional right here in New York State by providing equitable treatment for the accused and reducing the burden on counties. This may also lead to considerable cost savings if better legal representation leads to reduced pre-trial incarceration. I commend the Governor for a host of recent criminal justice reforms – particularly with regard to youth. Providing access to adequate legal counsel in every county in New York State is a critical piece of this reform and we welcome the opportunity to work with him to provide this in all counties of the state.

I spoke with WCNY’s Susan Arbetter and Capital Tonight’s Liz Benjamin about the bill. Continue to follow updates on this legislation by following the hashtag ‘#ILSNY’ on Twitter and Facebook.

Clean energy fund created. The Governor announced the Public Service Commission's approval of a 10-year, $5 billion Clean Energy Fund to accelerate the growth of New York's clean energy economy and address climate change.

The $5 billion Clean Energy Fund, to be administered by NYSERDA, is projected to result in more than $39 billion in customer bill savings over the next 10 years through innovative projects and private-public partnerships focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, making energy more affordable through energy efficiency and renewable energy, and mobilizing private-sector capital. In addition to the $39 billion in overall customer savings, as a result of this Public Service Commission action, consumers and businesses are expected to see lower costs of $1.5 billion over the next 10 years, including an immediate reduction of $91 million from 2016 electric and gas costs compared to 2015.

I applaud the Governor’s action and persistence on this issue.

DiFiore confirmed as Chief Judge of Court of Appeals. The State Senate this week confirmed former Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore as the state’s next Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, succeeding Chief Judge Lippman. I commend and thank Chief Judge Lippman for his service to the state and congratulate Chief Judge DiFiore as she embarks on this next chapter in serving the people of New York.

Passing of Justice Center leader. I was truly saddened to hear of the untimely passing of Jeff Wise, who was the executive director of the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs. Jeff was a tireless public servant and champion of the disabled. As an attorney, Jeff has worked for more than 25 years on public policy involving society’s most vulnerable, from homelessness and disability rights to Medicaid issues. My thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time.

Martin Luther King memorial. Another year passed by as we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King and reflect on his profound legacy as well as the work remaining to achieve his dreams. I joined Congressman Tonko, Mayor Sheehan, Assemblymember McDonald, and others earlier this week for the annual celebration of Dr. King’s life.

Office open house. Please join my staff and me for our Annual Open House in our office in Room 452 in the Legislative Office Building (LOB) in Albany, located in the building’s west side, from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 29.

I look forward to this event every year and hope we’ll be able to welcome you into what is both our Legislative and District Office. You will also have the opportunity to see our most recent art exhibits by Historic Albany Foundation and artist Kevin Kuhne.

You can enter through either street entrance of the State Capitol (State Street or Washington Avenue) or through the Empire State Plaza Concourse (Capitol/LOB entrance). After 9 a.m., you can also enter directly to the LOB through the LOB State Street entrance. On-street meter parking and Concourse visitor parking are certain to be available.

Job Opportunities: New York State has setup a new job portal entitled Jobs Express, where thousands of private and public sector jobs are listed. Visit for more information on how to apply for these opportunities.

As always, for the latest news or for upcoming events, please visit my office online, on Facebook, on Twitter, or my Times Union blog. If you would like to reach my office, please feel free to send us a note.

Sincerely ---