The Republican-controlled State Senate has agreed to include in its one-house budget a provision to raise the age that teens are tried as adults. Zack Fink filed the following report.
One-house budget resolutions traditionally establish priorities for both the Senate and Assembly before a final budget is hammered out by the end of the month.
This year, for the first time, the Republican-controlled Senate has agreed to include raising the age of criminal liability in New York State to 18.
"We have to make sure that nonviolent offenses, as well as misdemeanors, are heard in family court for 16- and 17-year-olds," said Jeff Klein, the leader of the state Senate's Independent Democratic Conference. "We have to move toward rehabilitation, not incarceration."
New York and North Carolina are the only two states in the nation that currently try 16- and 17-year-olds as adults.
Governor Andrew Cuomo first proposed raising the age two years ago, but it fell short in the Senate. Now, Senate Republicans indicate they are willing to try and get it done.
"Well, the governor has proposed, as you know, and other legislative leaders have identified it as a priority, so we are obligated to discuss it. But I don't think you'll see much detail beyond a commitment to discussing it," said state Senator Patrick Gallivan of Erie County.
Republicans agreed to raise the age after pressure from members of the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference, or IDC, which has a power-sharing arrangement with Republicans in the Senate.
"We staked out a very clear position that we weren't going to vote on a budget, a final budget anyway, unless it includes Raise the Age," Klein said. "This issue is important. I'm glad we re all talking about it."
With talk of impending snowstorm, speculation was rife at the capitol all day about whether the one-house budgets would actually get voted on Tuesday.
"We're here. We have no place to go. So I would imagine we have to do something," said state Senator Martin Golden of Brooklyn. "The good state of New York is paying us to work. So we will be here working, and hopefully we can get that done."
Mainline state Senate Democrats have called for raising the age and have warned against the IDC and Republicans crafting a version that is watered down or compromised.