New York State Bar Association Supports Key Investments in Governor’s Budget Proposal
The New York State Bar Association supports the key investments important to the association’s membership that Gov. Hochul has included in her preliminary budget proposal. In particular, the association favors the expansion and protection of reproductive health care, landmark investment in mental health care, significant criminal justice initiatives and improvements to the housing stock.
The governor has proposed the addition of 3,500 housing units for individuals with mental illness prone to housing insecurity, including 900 transitional step-down units and 1,500 supportive housing units as part of her investment in mental health initiatives. When the full budget proposal is released on Feb. 1, it will be possible to determine how many of those housing units will support those previously incarcerated or be designated for judicial diversion programs.
As part of the housing proposal, the governor has prioritized childhood lead poisoning stemming from New York’s aging housing stock. The proposal does not focus on the issue of outdated lead pipes outside of rental units that allow the hazardous substance to leach into drinking water. But the plan does include inspection requirements within rental units for the zip codes at highest risk and requires remediation by landlords if units fail the inspection. It is unclear exactly what the tests will be for — the leaching of lead water pipes or interior or exterior lead paint within housing units.
NYSBA supports the governor’s proposed investment to support discovery and pre-trial reform and her commitment to maintaining the elimination of cash bail for certain offenses. But some of the proposed reforms are against NYSBA policy, which only supports bail eligibility for violent crimes and flight risks. The governor’s proposal calls for increased judicial discretion in determining bail by eliminating the “least restrictive” standard for more serious crimes, a standard that protects defendants from excessive bail.
Missing from the governor’s preliminary proposal are important policies established as NYSBA priorities including various legal representation issues such as establishing a right to counsel for those facing deportation and a right to counsel for low-income tenants involved in housing proceedings.
While the governor’s proposal does include a significant investment of more than $36 million for district attorneys across the state to reduce case backlogs, what is noticeably absent is a proposed investment to increase the rate of compensation for attorneys who provide mandated representation. Assigned counsel attorneys face the same backlogs and disparities in being able to represent the most underserved New Yorkers in family court, appeal procedures, etc.. The stagnation of assigned counsel rates has led to a critical shortage of mandated representation across the state, particularly in upstate counties. In November, the New York State Bar Association filed a lawsuit seeking to raise assigned counsel rates to $164, the equivalent of the federal court rate.
Outline of Key 2023 State of the State Proposals:
Protection of and Expanded Access to Reproductive Health Care
· Enact the Equal Rights Amendment
· Increase Reimbursement Rates for Reproductive Health Providers
· Implement Over-The-Counter Contraception Access
· Safeguard Abortion Access through Data Privacy Protections
· Abortion Access at Public College Campuses
$1 Billion Proposed Investment to Mental Health Care
· Expand insurance coverage for mental health services
· Expand mental health services for school-aged children
· Increase operational capacity for inpatient psychiatric treatment by 1,000 beds
· Improve admissions and discharge planning and establish systemic accountability
· Expand outpatient services
· Create 3,500 new housing units for New Yorkers with mental illness
Criminal Justice Reform
· More than $30 million proposed investment in alternatives to incarceration
· $12 million proposed investment in reentry services to improve public safety
· Provide continued funding for discovery and pretrial reform
· Make improvements to state’s bail laws
The New York Housing Compact
· Address childhood lead poisoning in high-risk areas outside of New York City
· Support homeowners in high-need communities of color
· Expand the Tenant Protection Unit
· Offer critical incentives to build and rehabilitate housing, including a State Low Income Housing Tax Credit
For more information on the governor’s budget proposal, click here.