Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte: NYS Assembly Passes a Budget that puts NY Families First and the Historic Raise the Age Legislation

Albany – Saturday, April 6, 2017, the Assembly passed a $153.1 billion budget (see below for appropriations) and the historic Raise the Age legislation that had been before the NYS legislature for over a decade.

"Today is a historic day for families and children across the State of New York with the passage of legislation, which raised the age of criminal responsibility from 16 and 17 years of age to 18 years of age. The concessions that were made were difficult and heartbreaking when it came to negotiating the reforms to change the penal law language to protect our children," said Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte. As legislators, especially when we have a broken government it becomes challenging to pass a real progressive agenda. In the case of the Raise the Age legislation, although it's not perfect it is the right step forward in preventing 28,000 16- and 17- year olds on an annual basis from being charged and prosecuted criminally like adults. So while it has been really tough to vote for this budget as there were items I did not support like the 421a tax abatement, which has no real plan for affordable housing and a fake free college tuition bill proposed by the Governor that doesn't help most families but instead increases tuition by $200, I had to weigh the positives in this budget. This would include $1 billion in funding for supportive housing to combat the homeless crisis in New York, an increase in funding for our public schools, an increase in funds for tenant protection, free legal services for the poor and the historic criminal justice reform bill around raising the age of criminal responsibility, so I decided to put my support behind this bill."

Raise the Age

Final negotiations around the Raise the Age legislation were not perfect. While the Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie and the Assembly fought to have all juvenile cases begin in family court, in the end it was decided that all felony cases (including for non-violent felony charges) would start in the youth part of the criminal court and be waived down to family court in the event that there was no physical harm involved, no use of a weapon, and no sexual assault.

According to a recent article in the Times Union, New York City teens constitute an overwhelming majority of juvenile offenders and are mostly placed in facilities upstate. More than half of the juvenile detention admissions in 2013 were from New York City, according to the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.

Instead of trying our children as adults, there are proven alternatives, which are more effective such as the Close to Home program. Close to Home was designed for youths whom Family Court judges determine do not require a secure placement and are allowed to be near their families while receiving intensive rehabilitation services.

The Raise the Age legislation occurred within the context of the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws, which were enacted in 1973, and was outdated. These laws mandated extremely harsh prison terms for the possession or sale of relatively small amounts of drugs - two sugar packets worth. In the same way that these laws were amended, these reforms around raising the age were long overdue. We had an opportunity to negotiate for stronger reforms however due to the broken nature of our State government, the Senate IDC weakened the negotiations because they were not involved.

Some other facts about Raise the Age

- Incarcerating young people 16 and 17 years old has a devastating impact on their mental health. For one, youth in adult jails and prisons do not have access to the same age-appropriate rehabilitative services that are available in juvenile facilities, and they are 36 times more likely to commit suicide. [1]

- Incarceration also impacts their development in that it has repeatedly been proven that being placed in an adult jail increases their likelihood of committing crimes or violent acts in the future. They are also less likely to graduate high school and more likely to end up back in prison. [2]

- As the cognitive skills of adolescents are developing, adolescents' behavior is often impulsive and they lack the ability to focus on the consequences of their behavior. [3]

- Because the adolescent brain is still developing, the character, personality traits and behavior of adolescents are highly receptive to change; adolescents respond well to interventions, learn to make responsible choices, and are likely to grow out of negative or delinquent behavior. [4]

Under the new law, cases involving 16 and 17 year-old defendants will be adjudicated as follows:

  • Civil violation charges, such as open container violations and possession of small amounts of marijuana, as well as misdemeanors under the Vehicle and Traffic Law, such as DWIs, would continue to be handled in the local court;
  • All misdemeanor charges under the Penal Law would be handled in Family Court;
  • All felony charges would begin in a newly established Youth Part of the criminal court, presided over by a Family Court judge, where offenders would have access to additional intervention services and programming;
  • Non-violent felony charges would be transferred to Family Court, unless the district attorney makes a motion and demonstrates extraordinary circumstances that justify retaining the case in the Youth Part of the criminal court;
  • Violent felony charges would remain in the Youth Part of the criminal court and be subject to a three-part test that weighs the seriousness of the offense to determine whether the case will be eligible for presumptive removal to Family Court;
  • Juvenile cases not eligible for removal will be treated as adults for sentencing purposes, though the court will be directed to consider the defendant's age when imposing a sentence of incarceration.

Additionally, a defendant of any age who is convicted of certain non-violent offenses could apply to the court for a sealing of their record after a 10-year waiting period following the completion of their sentence.

You can learn more about the Raise the Age Legislation here.

421-a Tax Abatement

Affordable New York, the Governor's resurrected version of the 421-a Tax Abatement Bill is worse than its previous iteration. Prior to this version, the 421-a program and rent regulations shared an expiration date. This no longer exists. The Assembly fought for a version with better reforms, but in the end there was no agreement because the Governor and Senate Republicans wanted the tax abatement program to stay as it is. Unfortunately, this agreement greatly weakens the ability of tenant advocates' ability to fight for stronger rent laws. It also still has the 80/20 rule with minimal affordable housing that does not meet the Area Median Income (AMI) of our neighborhoods. In addition, while this program is another opportunity to expand the Governor's commitment to create economic opportunities for New Yorkers, Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs), and diversity workforce development, none of these things are being included as part of this program. It is still very much in place to benefit wealthy developers, with no thought of the thousands of people that it has displaced. The 42nd Assembly District has one of the highest rates of displacement.

Higher Education

The state budget provides funding to establish Governor Cuomo's Excelsior Scholarship, to make SUNY and CUNY schools tuition-free for of New York families who earn less than $125,000 annually. Students who attend a private college in New York and earn less than $125,000 annually would also be eligible for a scholarship award of $6,000. However, the Governor's plan is still woefully inadequate -- it is more like "free tuition light. " In an analysis put forth by Assemblymember Bichotte for free community college tuition, with a scale up plan to eventually include four- year colleges, it was pointed out that in order to have this program be truly meaningful for community college students, it would require at least a $500 million budget. Her colleague Assemblymember James Skoufis shared her sentiment when he said, "[T]his is more like a college unaffordability plan that the governor has put forth today. This proposal is a lot more interested in headlines than in actually making college more affordable." In essence, the $163 million that the Governor has put forth for "free college tuition" is being subsidized by a $200 tuition hike and would only help a sliver of the college student population.

Other aspects of the Higher Education Budget includes:

Helping students and their families meet the rising, non-tuition costs of college, the budget includes $8 million to help SUNY and CUNY develop online educational resources to help alleviate the high cost of textbooks for students.

Ensuring community colleges can continue helping its students get ahead, the budget allocates $6.2 million to SUNY community colleges and $3.1 million to CUNY community colleges for an increase of $50 per full-time equivalent (FTE) student, for a total of $2,747 per FTE student. The budget also includes $3.1 million for a new scholarship program for part-time students attending SUNY or CUNY community colleges so students with family or other responsibilities can finish school on their own schedules.

The Foster Youth College Success Initiative is funded at $4.5 million, a $1.5 million restoration and a $1.5 million increase to help foster youth attend and succeed in college.

Budget restorations of $2.5 million in funding for CUNY ASAP and $1.5 million for SUNY GAP to help provide remediation to community college students. The budget also restores $1.1 million to SUNY child care centers and $902,000 to CUNY child care centers.

A budget requirement for the Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC) to complete a college affordability study examining student loan debt relief and student loan refinancing options as well as affordability initiatives to help find ways to reduce the cost of student textbooks, transportation and housing.

Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (MWBEs)

The MWBE program did not fare well during this process. An attempt to increase discretionary spending for New York City's MWBE program from $20k to $200k, which would have made a significant difference in helping small businesses and MWBEs did not make it into the budget. In addition, although advocated for, there was no MWBE participation goal attached to the revived 421-a program. Also, the budget did not include a feasibility study which would have required State agencies to determine their ability to provide capacity building and mentoring for MWBEs, and lastly, while there was a push for a two year extension for Article 15a, which is the State's MWBE program, at most the program will only be extended until April 2018, and if the State's disparity study is completed by June 30, 2017 it will then be extended to December 2018. The disparity study's findings will dictate the future terms and utilization goal of the program.

The Budget FY2017-2018

The overall state budget for FY 2017-18 is $153.1 billion and contains significant investments in public education, higher education, housing, legal support, transportation and infrastructure. These investments help to ensure that our children continue to have access to a sound and basic education, invests in existing housing stock and commits funding to 100% affordable housing, ensures that all New Yorkers have equal access to quality legal representation, protects the safety and reliability of our roadways and bridges, makes a significant commitment to ensuring every New Yorker has clean drinking water, and sound investments in public health.

Budget Highlights


  • $50 million increase in Community Schools Aid
  • $817 million - Prekindergarten programs
  • $35 million - After-school programs
  • $5 million - Expansion of half-day and full-day prekindergarten for 3- and 4-year-olds in high-need school districts
  • $15.5 million - Bi-lingual education
  • $2 million - Advance Placement (AP) Test Assistance
  • $2 million - Master Teachers Program;
  • $400,000 - Excellence in Teaching Awards; and
  • $300,000 - Cyber bullying prevention.

Higher Education

  • $35.5 million ($5.9 million restoration) Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP)
  • $32.2 million ($5.3 million restoration) Educational Opportunity Program (EOP)
  • $28.1 million ($4.6 million restoration) Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge program (SEEK)
  • $15.8 million ($2.6 million) Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP)


  • $1 billion - Supportive Housing Program


  • $125 million - Senior housing Program
  • $4.5 million - Tenant Protection Unit in re-appropriated funds
  • $472 million - Multi-family new construction
  • $160 million - Middle income Housing
  • $146 billion - Multi-family Preservation
  • $100 million - 100% affordable housing
  • $63 million - Small building Programs
  • $45 million - Community reinvestment Fund
  • $41 million - Welcome home NY Homeownership
  • $13 million - Manufacture home Program
  • $10 million - Revitalize New York Mainstream Program

Indigent Legal Services

  • $1.06 million in support for the New York State Defenders Association;
  • $600,000 in support for immigrant legal services; and
  • $500,000 for alternatives to incarceration (ATI) programming.


  • $65 million - Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Capital Plan to help accommodate more passengers and improve efficiency


  • $200 million - Drinking and wastewater infrastructure improvements in New York City's watershed

Protecting Medicaid and Affordable Care

  • provide Medicaid coverage for donor breast milk for hospitalized, high-risk preterm infants who can't receive breast milk from their mothers.

You can learn more about the State budget by clicking on the links below.

Appropriation bills:

  • State Operations (A3000-D / S2000-D)
  • Legislature and Judiciary (A3001 / S2001)
  • Debt Service (A3002 / S2002)
  • Aid to Localities (A3003-D / S2003-D)
  • Capital Projects (A3004-D / S2004-D)

Article VII bills:

  • Public Protection and General Government (PPGG) Bill (A3005-C / S2005-C)
  • Education, Labor and Family Assistance (ELFA) Bill (A3006-C / S2006-C)
  • Health and Mental Hygiene (HMH) Bill (A3007-B / S2007-B)
  • Transportation, Economic Development and Environmental Conservation (TED) Bill (A3008-C / S2008-C)
  • Revenue (REV) Bill (A3009-C / S2009-C)

"I would like to thank all my colleagues in the Assembly and in the Senate for doing the hard work, and for committing the time and energy to ensure that we could pass a budget that would lay the groundwork for future progress," said Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte. "In particular I would like to thank our Speaker, Carl Heastie, for his overall leadership and for leading the charge, and our other leaders who worked closely with him such as Assemblymember Joe Lentol who sponsored and carried the Raise the Age bill for twelve years, and other ambassadors of that legislation that helped negotiate this deal, such as Assemblymembers Jeffrion Aubry, Phil Ramos, and Helene Weinstein as well as Senator Velmanette Montgomery who was the lead on criminal justice reform issues on the Senate side. Additionally, I would like to acknowledge Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi for advocating for $1 billion dollars for supportive housing for those experiencing homelessness, Assemblymember Cathy Nolan for her work on undoing charter school co-location first right of refusal, Assemblymember Pat Fahy for her work on fighting for $250 million for indigent legal services, Assemblymember Michaelle Solages, for working on a lifesaving initiative, which makes sure that donor breast milk is covered by Medicaid for hospitalized, high-risk preterm infants who can't receive breast milk from their mothers, and Assemblymember Denny Farrell for his work as Chair of the Ways and Means Committee. Although, we accomplished a lot, there is still much more work to do and I look forward to making this a New York that works for all New Yorkers."


[1], Raise the Age Campaign Fact Sheet 2017, accessed 4/9/2017

[2] Ibid

[3], Raise the Age Campaign Statement on Raise the Age Legislation, accessed 4/9/2017

[4] Ibid