By Matt Richter, Communications Director, Westchester County Board of Legislators
Mar. 22, 2017: On Thursday, March 16, the Westchester County Board of Legislators, Legislation Committee, met with members of Westchester County's state legislators for the purpose of presenting and discussing the 2017 Joint Legislative Package.
The 2017 package contains 20 legislative items to be submitted through Westchester state legislators for consideration by the state legislature and governor in the current state legislative session.
The joint legislative package, which is submitted annually, represents measures that Westchester legislators have identified as being of particular importance or urgency. As in recent years, most of the legislative items submitted for consideration deal with the overarching issue of unfunded mandates and mandate relief.
Legislator Virginia Perez (D) Yonkers is chair of the legislation committee. An item of particular importance to Legislator Perez is the first item in the legislative package, which is a proposal to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York. In April of 2016, the board of legislators passed a resolution commonly referred to as "Raise the Age." The age of criminal responsibility in New York is 16 years old. It is the board of legislators' belief that treating and incarcerating 16-year-olds with adults does far more to harm than it does to try to rehabilitate them. The "Raise the Age" legislation would not apply to individuals charged with violent crimes.
Legislator Perez's brother Martin was killed in a shooting by two young men, one, 17, and the other, 18. The trigger man had prior convictions and had served time in jail. Perez believes that if this young man, when serving time as a juvenile offender, had received some form of intervention instead of incarceration, he may have changed the direction of his life for the better and Martin Perez may have been alive today. Legislator Perez said, "We urge the state to consider a modification to the age of criminal responsibility and to find ways to rescue these kids from a criminal justice process that may in fact push them toward a life of criminal activity and that would ultimately make them a drain on our resources."
The key to getting this resolution passed is an agreement by the state that they would fund the additional costs associated with handling these youth offenders' cases outside a jail setting.
Westchester would need to hire ten new probation officers to manage youthful offenders who are offered alternatives to incarceration. The "Raise the Age" legislation has passed the assembly with the requisite funding. The state senate and governor have yet to pass and properly fund this critical legislation.
Other items in the legislative package from Westchester County:
• State reimbursement to counties for full amount of expenditures for indigent legal services
• Secure more money for the Bee-Line Bus Service
• Restore funding for Hudson Valley 211 hotline
• Child care subsidy funding
• Request funding for state-mandated rape kit law
• Provide Medicaid mandate relief for counties
Participants in the meeting from the state delegation were Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer, Assemblyman Steve Otis, and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow.
Pictured here: Meeting of the Westchester County Board of Legislators with Westchester's state legislators.
Photo courtesy Matt Richter, Communications Director, Westchester County Board of Legislators