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Rockefeller Drug Law Bill Dangerous for New York

Recently, the Assembly Democrats in Albany passed their version of the Rockefeller Drug Laws reforms (A.6085). Simply put, this bill is dangerously flawed, riddled with too many unanswered questions, and includes provisions that will only create more problems than solutions. For each of these fundamental reasons, I am adamantly and strongly opposed to the Assembly’s Rockefeller Drug Law bill.

Back in the 1970s, far too many of our communities were gripped with a growing drug epidemic. In order to combat this trend, Governor Nelson Rockefeller worked with the State Legislature to enact stronger laws to take our neighborhoods back.

During this period, with an urgent need to protect our families and communities, I voted in support of legislation that eventually became the “Rockefeller Drug Laws.” As a result of these, New York lead the way in the war on drugs in the 70s and for the decades that followed.

Over the past few years, the State Legislature has taken many proactive steps to change the law. New York has implemented programs that would serve as alternatives to incarceration, including combining “shock” prison programs and treatment and diverting certain prison-bound drug offenders to treatment instead of prison.

In 2004, the State Legislature enacted legislation that dramatically reformed the state drug laws by providing reduced prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. Because of the 2004 law and other steps taken by the State Legislature, arrests for drug felonies have declined throughout New York. While our success in making our streets safe is notable and significant, we cannot and must not weaken the very laws that helped pave the way for safer streets.

However, there is a movement spearheaded by Assembly Democrats to enact legislation and enact new reforms that will weaken New York’s drug laws and effectively turn back years of hard work and progress in reducing crime and keeping drug offenders off our streets.

The bill endorsed by the Assembly Democrats is flawed and troubling for many reasons. First and foremost, the Assembly bill would take away power vested in the district attorneys by eliminating their consent to transfer certain cases to drug courts and conditionally sealing drug dealers and drug users court records. Repeat drug dealers would get probation instead being sentence behind bars away from our communities. Mandatory minimum sentences, a key and effective provision in state law to combat drug felonies would be eliminated.

To make matters worse, the bill would allow thousands of drug offenders to apply for lighter sentences, effectively opening prison doors and allowing criminals back on the street before the end of their prison sentence. These provisions are just the tip of the iceberg of the dangers contained in this “so-called” reform bill.

With all of the hazardous and outrageous provisions contained in the Assembly bill it’s no wonder that The New York Daily News in a recent editorial dubbed the measure the “Drug Dealer Protection Act.”

As the debate around this important issues continue to swirl, I will continue to fight to ensure that our state has the tough laws to combat drug offenses in our community and work to preserve a common-sense approach that will continue to give law enforcement personnel and district attorneys the tools and power they need to protect our safety and well being.

Senator Frank Padavan represents the 11th District in Queens.

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