North Carolina ‘raise the age’ bill could leave New York behind
“ALBANY — Criminal justice reform advocates frequently note that New York and North Carolina are the only two states to charge 16- and 17-year-olds as adults for non-violent offenses.
But North Carolina has begun taking steps to raise the age and lawmakers there introduced a bill Wednesday that has bipartisan sponsors in the state House of Representatives and has garnered support from some of the state’s law enforcement groups and judicial officials.
As in New York, similar measures in the North Carolina General Assembly have stalled in the state Senate, but the latest bill raises the possibility New York could be the last state where 16-year-olds can be tried as adults for non-violent offenses.
“I can only hope that we wouldn’t be the only state out there that hasn’t seen the light,” said state Assemblyman Joe Lentol, who sponsors his chamber’s raise the age bill. “But nothing ever amazes me here.”
The Assembly last month passed Lentol’s legislation. Speaker Carl Heastie has said he’s “embarrassed” to be one of two states to try 16-year-olds as adults for non-violent offenses and that his speakership would be “in vain” if it fails to do so. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has included a raise the age proposal in his executive budget.
For their part, Senate Republicans have been open to discussing raising the age, but said they are carefully reviewing various proposals from the Assembly, the governor and the Independent Democratic Conference — which works with Senate Republicans — in order to find a measure they can support.
Sen. Pat Gallivan, head of the chamber’s crime victims, crime and correction committee, said he expected the Senate’s one-house budget resolution to include language indicating openness to raise the age but not a concrete, detailed proposal.
“I do think in the end there are things that we can do an ultimately get to a comfort level if public safety is paramount, and we’re comfortable that public safety is preserved and even enhanced,” he said.
Gallivan said he did not think North Carolina’s effort would have any bearing on what New York did.
Marcie Mistrett, chief executive of the Campaign for Youth Justice, said New York has demonstrated progress this year on the issue but hoped that North Carolina could increase the pressure to come to an agreement.
“In North Carolina it’s a bi-partisan issue as in other states, so we feel that New York is a little bit of a laggard in terms of that,” she said. “The hard thing about New York whether New York is influenced by any other state, or do they operate outside of that.”
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