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NEW YORK, N.Y. /Troy Media/ – In areas as diverse as criminal justice reform, education and gun safety, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is taking steps to show that it’s possible to advance a liberal agenda in Donald Trump’s America.
In the budget passed in early April, New York became the first American state to offer free tuition at its public universities and community colleges for families making under $100,000 per year. In doing so, New York adopts what was one of the pillars of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign platform.
The move could send ripples nationally. The New York model will be closely watched by left-leaning states. To paraphrase Frank Sinatra, if a policy can make it here, it might make it anywhere.
In stark contrast to the perception that the United States is a lawless free-for-all when it comes to firearms, New York also has one of the country’s most restrictive gun control policies.
In order to get just the initial permit for a handgun, the applicant must provide references to local law enforcement and complete a full background profile. A safety course must be taken and, even then, eventual approval is only granted by a County Court or state Supreme Court judge. The process can take up to six months and is anything but a rubber-stamp.
In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in December 2012, New York also swiftly adopted the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act, which restricts magazine capacity and effectively bans assault-style weapons. It’s not perfect – the law is widely believed to be ignored by gun enthusiasts – but it at least shows a responsiveness to the ongoing issue of gun violence and how best to proactively mitigate that scourge in a modern society.
New York has also mandated the recording – with some exceptions – of custodial interviews, putting into place a significant criminal justice reform meant to lessen the problem of false and coerced confessions. Such confessions usually emanate from those individuals suspected of a crime who have the least resources – financially and emotionally – on which to draw.
In a further attempt to limit the problem of witness misidentification leading to wrongful convictions, New York has also changed its lineup procedures for photo arrays. Now, they must be done blind – there can be no suggestion or inadvertent flagging of whom police believe to be the suspect.
Perhaps most significantly in criminal justice reform, New York has raised the age of adult criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 for non-violent offences. No longer will 16- and 17-year-olds automatically be charged as adults. That means juveniles will be dealt with in family court as the default venue of first instance and not adult criminal court. This finally brings New York in line with the rest of the county – excepting North Carolina, which remains an outlier on this issue.
New York also provides its least fortunate residents with Medicaid – allowing access to health services – and a significant social safety net to take care of basic needs such as food and shelter.
One doesn’t have to be Nostradamus – or even Sinatra – to start spreading the news: the Democrats have a potential presidential candidate to pick up the torch of liberal values and progressive philosophies in 2020.
In the words of Cuomo: This is a pivotal time in our nation’s history. Ultraconservatives in Washington are challenging our values, ignoring the middle class and trying to tip the balance in favour of the wealthy. That’s not what New York is about. We believe that government can and should be at the service of the people, and we are forging our own path.
Those words, now backed up by actions, will leave progressives across the United States in a New York state of mind.
Troy Media columnist Gavin MacFadyen is a Canada-raised, U.S.-based writer and occasional lawyer. Blending insight and wit, he brings a unique perspective to the issues of the day. Gavin is included in Troy Media’s Unlimited Access subscription plan.
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