2012–2013 New York State Budget

On March 30th, Governor Cuomo and the leaders of the Legislature announced passage of the 2012-2013 New York State budget. The City Bar supported a number of aspects of the budget, which are highlighted below:

  • The Council on Judicial Administration applauds the adoption of the Judiciary’s 2012-2013 Budget Request. The $2.30 billion Judiciary Budget comes in at 0.17% below this year’s spending plan, and will permit the courts to ameliorate some of the measures that have had the most immediate and direct impact on court users after last year’s budget cut. For example, the budget will permit some relaxation of the early closing times at courthouses that were implemented this year, and ease limits on weekend arraignments, small claims court evening hours, and the reduced call of jurors. The Judiciary Budget includes a long-overdue raise in the salaries for judges adopted by the Commission on Judicial Compensation, the first increase in 13 years. Importantly, the Judiciary Budget also provides $25 million for Civil Legal Services funding, an increase over the $12.5 million provided in the last fiscal year.  This funding will help ease a profound human and social toll on the most vulnerable New Yorkers and ameliorate significant burdens on judges and represented parties in cases where litigants must appear pro se.
  • The Committee on Legal Problems of the Aging is pleased that the budget did not include two provisions it had opposed: the elimination of “spousal refusal” rules for both institutional and home based Medicaid cases and the expansion of the definition of the Medicaid estate. The Committee argued that these changes would have adversely impacted some of New York’s most vulnerable citizens and, in some cases, conflicted with existing law. Specifically, eliminating the spousal refusal protection would have caused the non-applying spouse to reduce his/her income and assets to the federal poverty level in order for the applicant spouse to receive Medicaid benefits, with the potential for several negative results. And, expanding the Medicaid estate definition would have caused individuals to prematurely transfer and lose control of their homes and would have resulted in less income being available to help pay for health services during the individual’s lifetime.
  • The Council on Children applauds the inclusion of Governor Cuomo’s ‘Close to Home Initiative’ in the budget, which will allow New York City to take care of lower risk youth in the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (“OCFS”) facility placement system when those youths come from the City. The current OCFS facility placement system typically places children far from their families and communities, is expensive and exposes young people to physical and psychological harm, abuse, and a woeful lack of education and mental health treatment, which results in a stunningly high recidivism rate (there is an 81% recidivism rate for boys). Placing children close to their homes, families, communities and lawyers is not only cost effective, but more humane, providing children access to the vital support networks while still providing the services and supervision they need.
  • In a lead-in to the budget agreement, the Legislature passed legislation which will expand collection of DNA from a wide range of felony and misdemeanor offenders. The Committee on Criminal Advocacy applauds the passage of this legislation because DNA can be used to help prosecutors identify and convict the guilty and defense attorneys exonerate the wrongfully accused or convicted.  We also commend the inclusion of provisions which are designed to clarify and expand a defendant’s ability to ask a judge to order DNA comparisons from existing evidence and existing databases, both pre- and post-conviction. The Public Protection and General Government budget amended the effective date for this legislation, which will now go into effect August 1, 2012.

With 30 scheduled session days left on the legislative calendar, the City Bar looks forward to continuing its advocacy on a number of bills proposed by its committees. A sample of items on our agenda for the remainder of the session includes:

  • Advocating for the creation of a court rule to protect confidential personal information in court filings.
  • Strengthening the trust property and trust fund provisions of the Arts and Cultural Affairs Law as it pertains to the consignment of artwork to art merchants by artists, their heirs and their personal representatives.
  • Updating and providing clarity on state laws regarding the use of service animals by people with disabilities.
  • Supporting legislation that would create the felony crime of aggravated family offense, which can be used to charge abusers who repeatedly engage in domestic violence, as well as legislation that would give greater discretion to judges when sentencing defendants who are survivors of domestic violence.
  • Continuing to support a number of criminal justice proposals aimed at curbing wrongful convictions. While the passage of the expanded DNA database will be an important step toward decreasing the incidence of wrongful convictions in New York, more can and should be done. In that vein, the City Bar supports increasing the use of recorded interrogations, clarifying ineffective assistance of counsel claims and ensuring complete disclosure of exculpatory material.

For more information on these and all of the City Bar’s policy positions, check out our 2012 Legislative Program. You can also visit our Legislative Affairs webpage and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.