This is an opinion piece written by Attorney Lance Salisbury. It was NOT written by The Ithaca Voice. To submit an opinion piece, contact us at jalmendarez@ithacavoice.com.

ITHACA, N.Y. — This week, New Yorkers and residents of Tompkins County have an opportunity impact their property tax bills and the county budget.

The Justice Equality Act (The Public Defense Mandate Relief Bill or the DiFransisco- Fahy bill as it was previously known) has now reached the governors desk after being passed by both houses of the New York State Legislature, and the governor and his staff are currently evaluating the bill and determining if he will sign it.

This important piece of legislation is ground breaking as it will transfer over a period of years the cost of supporting mandated indigent representation in the legal system from the county to the state budget.

Currently indigent legal representation is mandated in all criminal and family court matters but the cost is entirely born by counties in New York State.

This bill would over a period of years transfer the cost of this mandate from the county back to the state. This change will dramatically impact the county budget in the future particularly as the costs of this mandated representation are expected to keep increasing over time.

This is a unique moment in the state when there is an opportunity for citizens to express their desire to the governor to have the significant cost of this mandate be transferred back to the state budget where it more properly belongs.

 The decision by the governor to sign the bill must be made before the end of the year. I would encourage everyone who is concerned about this issue, and about the cost of such services and the impact on our local budget, to call the governor’s office at (518) 474-8390 or tweet him at GovernorCuomo@NYGovCuomo, or email him at legislative.secretary@exec.ny.gov.

Lance Salisbury

Supervising Attorney

Tompkins/Schuyler County Assigned Counsel Program