Deal near on Rockefeller drug law reforms

By Jason Fink

Lawmakers are expected to take up a bill as early as Tuesday rolling back the remainder of the state’s tough 1970s drug laws.

“We have the framework of a tentative agreement,” said Austin Shafran, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith.

Leaders from the Assembly and the Senate are huddling with Gov. David Paterson’s office to hammer out a compromise on a series of reforms that would repeal mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, expand treatment programs and widen the state’s drug-court system.The legislature eliminated life sentences for certain drug crimes as part of the 2005 reform of the so-called Rockefeller drug laws, named for Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, who pushed them through in 1973.

But advocates and many Democratic lawmakers have pushed for further repeal. For instance, selling a half gram of cocaine will now get an offender a minimum of 3 ½ years.

Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan, who heads the New York State District Attorney’s Association, opposes changing the laws.

“Further reform is not necessary,” he said Thursday. “Violent crime is at historic lows in New York state. It’s working, there’s nothing broken.”

Identical bills have been introduced in the Senate and the Assembly and state officials say a new version will likely be included with one of the budget bills being considered Tuesday.

Tags: rockefeller drug laws , state legislature , crime

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