Cuomo vetoes bill that would have required state to fund legal services for the poor

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[Is Cuomo pulling on his wicked witch hat to gather his bona fides for a run at the next Presidential nomination? *RON*]

Kenneth Lovett, New York Daily News, 1 January 2017

Gov. Cuomo’s office said that last-minute negotiations with the Legislature failed to yield a deal. (DARREN MCGEE- OFFICE OF GOVERNOR)
ALBANY — Gov. Cuomo vetoed a bill late Saturday that would have required the state to fund legal services for the poor in each county.

Cuomo’s office in a New Year’s Eve statement released just over an hour before the bill was required to be signed or vetoed said last-minute negotiations with the Legislature to address the governor’s concerns failed to yield a deal.

“Until the last possible moment, we attempted to reach an agreement with the Legislature that would have achieved the stated goal of this legislation, been fiscally responsible, and had additional safeguards to ensure accountability and transparency,” Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi said. “Unfortunately, an agreement was unable to be reached and the Legislature was committed to a flawed bill that placed an $800 million burden on taxpayers — $600 million of which was unnecessary — with no way to pay for it and no plan to make one.”

He said the issue will be revisited in the upcoming legislative session.

Gov. Cuomo vetoes 70 bills passed earlier this year

The bill, which had support from progressive and conservative groups, would have given the state seven years to take over complete funding of indigent legal services from towns.

Dozens of groups representing public defenders, municipalities and others expressed disappointment.

Jonathan Gradess, executive director of the New York State Defenders Association, called Cuomo’s decision to veto the bill “stunning.”

“We are all shocked that the Governor vetoed a bill that would have reduced racial disparities in the criminal justice system, helped ensure equal access to justice for all New Yorkers, provided improved public defense programs for those who cannot afford an attorney, and much-needed mandate relief for counties, Gradess said. “The governor refused to accept an independent oversight mechanism on state quality standards, and now, sadly tens of thousands of low-income defendants will pay the price.”

Assembly bill sponsor Patricia Fahy (D-Albany) said she is committed to addressing the issue again in the upcoming legislative session. (HANS PENNINK/AP)
Assembly bill sponsor Patricia Fahy (D-Albany) said she is committed to addressing the issue again in the upcoming legislative session.

“We have waited 50 years to fully implement this constitutional mandate and we want to get this right for the sake of all New Yorkers,” Fahy said.

The legislation passed during the 2016 legislative session after a settlement in 2015 of a case brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union that claimed a lack of funding is depriving the poor of effective criminal defense representation.

“We are deeply disappointed that the governor has vetoed the most important criminal justice reform legislation in memory,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “He has rejected a groundbreaking and bipartisan fix to our deeply flawed public defense system and left in place the status quo, in which the state violates the rights of New Yorkers every day and delivers unequal justice.”

The settlement had the state pick up the overwhelming costs of indigent legal defense in Suffolk, Ontario, Onondaga, Schuyler and Washington counties.

A Cuomo source said the legislation was much broader than the terms of the court settlement and would have been much more costly for the state.

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