Will New York State’s three-decade-old Rockefeller drug laws ever be changed? A bipartisan legislative conference committee has made progress, but the question of what to do about Class B drug offenders — the bulk of those in prison on drug charges — continues to block a deal, reports the Albany Times Union. Republican Sen. Dale Volker said the GOP Senate majority went as far as it will go by agreeing to sentence reductions for all but the Class B offenders. The agreements include the most serious (Class A) offenders who now must serve long-to-life sentences. “The Assembly is going to have to bend some,” said Volker. “I don’t think we can bend on an issue that I believe will result in a virtual jail break.”
Republicans aren’t willing to bend much on a top goal for Assembly Democrats: Returning judicial sentencing discretion and curtailing district attorneys’ power to decide who gets drug treatment rather than prison. That leaves the B-level offenders and their prison sentences as the most critical subject of negotiation. Some reform activists said they would accept an agreement that does not include a return of judicial discretion. “We’ve come up with zilch year after year after year,” said Michael Blain, director of public policy at the Drug Policy Alliance. “If we can get significant sentence reduction and probation eligibility for the B felonies, then we’ll take that and come back for more next year.” The committee’s final meeting is scheduled for next Monday.