Political Arena

Big bucks and bail reform in new budget


Gov. Kathy Hochul unveiled New York’s preliminary fiscal budget last Thursday, after a week of tense closed-door negotiations with lawmakers. The $220.5 billion deal includes several controversial legislative changes, including rollbacks to the state’s 2019 criminal justice reforms and funding for a new Buffalo Bills football stadium.

According to press reports, budget negotiations stalled after Hochul’s administration pushed to tweak the state’s 2019 bail reform laws.

In the end, Hochul got what she wanted as judges will now be allowed to set cash bail in more cases than before.

Another win for Hochul: The state is pledging to give $600 million toward a new Bills’ stadium to ensure that the team remains in the state.

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz praised the fiscal package, calling it the “best budget” lawmakers had enacted since he was first elected into office. Still, he has his gripes.

“There are certainly things that I wish we would have left out,” he said, “such as funding for the billionaire owners of the Buffalo Bills to build a new stadium.”

In his weekly newsletter, Dinowitz also touted a legislative brainchild of his that didn’t make the headlines: The elections boards will now include postage paid return envelopes with absentee ballots, saving voters a little time and effort on Election Day.

Redistricting wrangle rumbles on

A state appeals judge temporarily overturned a lower court’s March 31 decision to throw out the hotly contested state and congressional district maps, which Republicans have argued in court were drawn with political bias.

That practice was outlawed by a 2014 constitutional amendment.

Thanks to this appellate decision, the election process can continue as normal and the primary is still scheduled for June 28 — for the time being.

There are caveats, though. First, an even higher court will review the case and issue a more binding decision, so nothing is set in stone.

Second, the appeals judge agreed with the lower court, which decided that a neutral expert should be appointed to draw up alternative maps in the event that the higher court sides against those currently at play.

Lawyers representing the state are expected in court on April 20 to plead their case.