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June 9, 2009

Drug laws worry lawmakers


When schools send fingerprints of a prospective employee to the state for a background check, the response is an "accepted or rejected," Shea said.

Through this process, the district does not learn why someone may have failed a background check, Shea said.

In the course of hiring a prospective employee, he or she is asked by the school district if he was ever convicted of a felony, Shea said.

Assemblyman Pete Lopez, R-Schoharie, said Assemblyman Dave Townsend, R-Sylvan Beach, intends to introduce companion legislation in the Assembly.

Lopez said the measure was intended to integrate drug offenders back into society.

"Certainly, you want people to be able to move forward and be productive citizens," Lopez said.

There is a constant balancing act between the right to privacy and the public's right to information, Lopez said.

But Lopez said that in this case, "the pendulum swings too far."

Muehl said the state district attorney's association is opposed to the new provision. But Muehl said he doesn't envision judges in Otsego County or elsewhere in rural New York sealing many records.

Gov. David Paterson, a Democrat, has defended the provision, as has Democratic Assembly Leader Sheldon Silver. Democrats have also controlled the Senate this year, but a vote Monday switched the Senate to GOP control through a coalition with two New York City Democrats.

Lopez, Seward and Bonacic said the measure is a result of a state budget process held behind closed doors.

"The changes to New York's drug laws were rushed through as part of the state's secret budget process," Bonacic said in the release. "The New York City Democrats who controlled the budget process claimed to be thrilled with these changes, and now we see the results. Secret negotiations combined with a soft-on-crime attitude have left New York with a dangerous public policy we must stop."

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