By Mary Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville
Oct. 21, 2020: The State Legislature approved a $178 billion 2020-2021 state budget; however, the budget includes language that permits the state budget director to make uniform or targeted reductions to appropriations if the state budget becomes unbalanced because revenues fall below projections or expenditures rise above projections during three different periods: April 1 to April 30, May 1 to June 30 and July 1 to December 31 of the state fiscal year. As a consequence, the small amount of State funding the Village receives is not at all a certainty.
Despite the COVID crisis, the New York State Legislature had a very active session passing bills with many of the more consequential ones relating to law enforcement.
Major Legislative Changes
Repeal of Civil Rights Law 50/A
Previous law made all personnel records used to evaluate the performance toward continued employment or promotion of police officers, firefighters, paramedics, corrections officers, or peace officers confidential and not subject to inspection or review without the individual’s express written consent or a court order. This legislation also amended New York State Freedom of Information Law, by now subjecting any record created in furtherance of a law -enforcement disciplinary proceeding to be disclosed under FOIL.
The Eric Garner Anti - Chokehold Act
Creates the crime of aggravated strangulation (making it a class C felony) and establishes criminal penalties for a police officer or peace officer who uses a chokehold that causes serious physical injury or death.
Falsely Purposely Summoning a Police Officer
Establishes civil penalties for summoning a police officer or peace officer when there is no reason to believe a crime or offense or imminent threat to person or property is occurring involving a member of a protected class.
Law Enforcement Misconduct Investigative Office
Establishes this office within the Department of Law. The Attorney General’s office will be tasked with receiving and investigating complaints from any source concerning allegations of corruption, fraud, use of excessive force, criminal activity, conflicts of interest, or abuse in municipal police and other law enforcement agencies
Office of Special Investigations
Establishes this office within the Office of the Attorney General, which will have investigative authority and criminal jurisdiction for any incident involving the death of a person caused by an act or omission by a police officer or a peace officer. Where an investigation concludes that the death or matters relating to the death or investigation of the death involved criminal conduct, the office will be empowered to prosecute any such alleged offender.
Police Weapon Discharge Reporting
Requires a police officer or peace officer, whether on or off duty, who discharges his or her weapon under circumstances where a person could be struck by a bullet to verbally report the incident within six hours and file a written report within 48 hours.
Recording Law Enforcement Activity
Provides that a person not under arrest or in the custody of a law enforcement official has the right to record police activity and to maintain custody and control of that recording and of any property or instruments used by that person to record such activities.
Medical Response for Arrestees
Affirms an individual’s right to medical and mental health attention while under arrest or otherwise in custody of a police officer. Failure to provide reasonable and good faith medical assistance could result in a cause of action against the officers.
Body Cameras for State Police
Requires that all State police officers wear body cameras while on patrol.
Police Statistics and Transparency
Requires courts to compile and publish data concerning arrests and court proceedings involving low level offenses such as violations and traffic offenses. Such reports will include aggregate demographic information such as race, ethnicity and sex.
Bail Reform Amendments
The State restored to the courts some of the discretion that was lost as part of last year‘s bail reform measures. Specifically, the number of qualifying criminal offenses has been expanded that grant judges the authority to consider setting a monetary bail amount when analyzing a defendant’s likelihood of returning to court for future court appearances.
A further amendment also expands the types of non-monetary conditions a court can impose on a defendant during the pendency of their case.
Amendments to Discovery Reform
This amendment puts in place additional protections against disclosure of witnesses and victim information, including 911 caller information. Specifically, prosecutors may now withhold such information without having to obtain a court order first.
Environmental Protection Fund
The VPF continues to be funded at $300 million, including $39 million for solid waste programs, $89 million for Parks and Recreation, $153 million for open space programs, and $19 million for climate change.
Mother Nature Bond Act
The state budget includes language that establishes a $3 billion bond act, which would require approval via a state wide referendum on November 2020. The $3 million in bond proceeds would be used to preserve and restore the state’s natural resources and reduce the impact of climate change by funding projects to restore natural habitats, protect open spaces, reduce flood risk and improve water quality.
Effective January 1, 2022, the State will impose a ban on the sale, use and distribution of food service containers and loose fill packing that contains Styrofoam and packing peanuts. This ban will preempt all local laws to the contrary.
Manual Election Recounts
The State amended the election law and now requires County Boards of Elections to conduct manual recounts of ballots from any general, special or primary elections, including Village elections, in the following circumstances: where the margin of victory is 20 votes or less; where the margin of victory is 0.5% or less and in a contest where 1 million or more ballots are cast and the margin of victory is less than 5000 votes. The result of the manual recount will supersede the returns filed by the election inspectors where the canvas was initially conducted.
Pictured at top: Mary Marvin
Photos by A. Warner
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