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Senate Republicans plan hearing on Bell parole, felon voting rights

ALBANY – Senate Republicans will hold a hearing on the state parole board’s freeing of a man who killed two police officers in 1971 and also on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s restoration of voting rights for some former felons.

The hearing isn’t yet scheduled, but will be within “several weeks,” according to Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif on Monday. That could put the open hearings just before Democratic primary on Sept. 13 that pits Cuomo against activist Cynthia Nixon, or before the general election on Nov. 6 that will include Republican nominee Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive.

“Andrew Cuomo’s get out the vote operation includes pardoning the worst of the worst offenders,” said Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport). “Cop killers, pedophiles and rapists should not be rewarded with a vote and the peace and freedom that they destroyed for others. We are deeply concerned that these individuals will be entering polling places in schools, and demand a full release of the conditional pardons.”

Republicans cited Herman Bell's parole this year by the state Board of Parole, whose members are appointed by the governor. Bell was convicted of killing two police officers in 1971 and had spent four decades in prison. New York City Police Department officers and union leaders strongly opposed the release.

State parole board members are appointed by the governor and each must be confirmed by the Senate’s Republican majority. The board is supposed to act independently.

"We disagree with some of their decisions, too,” said Rich Azzopardi, spokesman for Cuomo, noting the Senate has confirmed all the parole board members. 

Azzopardi also defended restoring voting rights to some past felons.

“Fearmongering aside, this action puts New York in line with Washington, D.C., and 18 other states, red and blue, and stops inequities that the Senate refused to address," Azzopardi said.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the circumstances of Herman Bell's parole. Bell was paroled by the state Board of Parole.

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