June 7, 2004


Statement by Rockefeller Drug Law Reform Conference Committee Co-Chair Jeffrion Aubry and Conferees Joe Lentol, Helene Weinstein and Adriano Espaillat

Today's decision by the Senate to abandon the conference committee process as a means to achieve meaningful reform of the state's draconian drug laws is deeply disappointing to us and to the thousands of individuals who have championed reform of these overly harsh policies for years. Further, their suggestion that time does not permit us to continue our open and public discussion calls into question their overall commitment to this important issue.

During the six open and public conference committee meetings with our Senate colleagues, we have offered creative proposals and compromise after compromise, being told all the while that our priorities of judicial discretion and retroactivity would be addressed. Unfortunately, despite our numerous requests for a Senate proposal on these areas of core concern to the Assembly Majority, none was forthcoming.

While there has been progress, a significant amount of work remains and for that reason, we today presented our Senate colleagues with the framework for a compromise bill that not only presents areas of agreement, but also amends the Assembly Majority's original bill to reflect concerns and questions that have been raised during our public forums, particularly in the areas of retroactivity and judicial diversion, including a defined role for prosecutors.

This new compromise proposal is a working document, and it had been our hope that it would provide momentum to continue our historic dialogue and achieve the type of meaningful agreement that has been elusive for many years.

The Senate's desire to take this discussion behind closed doors is a step backwards. We urge the Senate to reconsider its decision not to extend the joint legislative conference committee so that we can build on the progress we've made to date and enact the type of meaningful reform that the people of New York deserve and have a right to expect from an open and public process.