Heastie pushes raise the age after Assembly’s one-house release
“ALBANY — Fresh off unveiling his chamber’s one-house budget proposals, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said Tuesday that he’s making his conference’s position on raising the age of criminal responsibility crystal clear to the Senate.
There is broad consensus among Democratic lawmakers that children as young as 16 should not be charged as adults for nonviolent offenses, but tensions remain over what concessions can be made to Senate Republicans — who are open to the reform — without compromising the fundamental aspects of the legislation.
Heastie reiterated his belief that if teenagers are not considered mature enough to be allowed to drive or vote, that standard should also apply to their standing in the criminal justice system.
“If they’re not adult enough to make those types of decisions, why do we treat them like adults if they screw up or make a mistake?” he said on The Capitol Pressroom radio program.
The Assembly passed a bill raising the age last month and included it in the one-house budget released Monday evening. Heastie said he has made his conference’s position clear to key lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Sen. Jeff Klein, head of the Independent Democratic Conference.
“They clearly know where myself and Assembly Democrats are on this issue,” he said.
They want to make a broader set of crimes eligible for family court adjudication and require less prosecutorial involvement in jurisdictional determination than alternatives like Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal, which has caused some concern among Senate Republicans.
Heastie would not detail which aspects he would be willing to compromise on, but he said he did not feel that “adolescent diversion courts,” as floated by the state’s district attorneys, would suffice.
“It’s a little bit better than sending a child to criminal court, but it’s still not in a family court setting,” he said.
Heastie, the first black Assembly speaker, noted that North Carolina — the only other state that tries 16-year-olds as adults — has resumed its own bipartisan effort to raise the age.
“If New York doesn’t get with it soon, we’ll be last,” he said.
The state Senate has not yet released its one-house resolution. It is expected to include language — though not policy specifics — supportive of raising the age.”
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