Legislation designed to increase parole eligibility for incarcerated New Yorkers over the age of 55 is closing in on a magic number of support in the state Senate.
The bill, which is carried by Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Brad Hoylman, is sponsored by 28 state senators – all Democrats – and is just four additional members away from theoretically having the majority support it would need to pass in the chamber. In order to meet that threshold in advance of the 2022 legislative session, progressive criminal justice advocates have set their lobbying sights on Democratic senators Michelle Hinchey, Rachel May, Andrew Gounardes and Kevin Thomas.
And while a majority of members may not be signed on to the bill, the People’s Campaign for Parole Justice reports that at least six additional Senate Democrats would vote for the proposal if it got to the floor – bringing their total support to at least 34 members. Reporting by the Johnson Newspaper Corp. indicates that Hinchey, an Ulster County Democrat, is one of the supportive members not signed on, and it’s safe to assume that Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins would back the bill on the floor.
On Wednesday afternoon, advocates were scheduled to rally outside of May’s Syracuse office in an attempt to garner her support for the legislation. They do not plan on making a public display at the nearby Syracuse district office of Democratic Sen. John Mannion, who is more conservative than May and likely a more a challenging vote to secure.
Similar advocacy efforts for the bill appear to have been successful, like in the case of Sen. Brian Kavanagh, a Manhattan Democrat, who had an April protest held in his district and is now a co-sponsor of the proposal. Other Democrats who joined the bill as co-sponsors after it was introduced include Samra Brouk, Tim Kennedy and Roxanne Persaud.
Former Sen. Brian Benjamin, now the lieutenant governor, was a co-sponsor of the bill (and is still listed as one), but his successor, Cordell Cleare, is a supporter of the measure.
Getting a majority to co-sponsor the bill, though, is no guarantee that the public supporters are pushing for it behind the scenes, which has been demonstrated in the state Assembly with the New York Health Act.
Speaking of the Assembly, proponents of ‘Elder Parole’ also need to win leadership’s support there too, as the bill from Assemblymember Carmen De La Rosa, a Manhattan Democrat, didn’t even get a committee vote in 2021.
And then you have Gov. Kathy Hochul, as another variable in this equation. Will she rally behind the bill and help its chances? Will she be quiet? Will she oppose it? And how much consideration will the Buffalo Democrat merit as legislative leaders contemplate what, if anything, they want to do about this issue?
Either way, 2022 is going to be a fun legislative session to cover.