ALBANY, NY (Erie News Now)--MONDAY, LAWMAKERS AND ADVOCATES RALLIED IN ALBANY FOR LEGISLATION NICKNAMED THE ‘END PREDATORY COURT FEES ACT.’

THE legislation INTENDS TO ELIMINATE COURT CHARGES AND FEES.  

SOME LAWMAKERS SAid IT WILL HELP PUT AN END TO A SYSTEMIC ISSUE OF CRIMINALIZING POVERTY.  

“It is unbelievable that we continue to burden low-income New Yorkers with the mandatory surcharge, with these fines and feeds. They are effectively a regressive tax,”  said Sen. Julia Salazar (D-18th Senate District).

FOR SOME ADVOCATES WHO TRAVELED TO THE cAPITOL TO RALLY FOR THIS LEGISLATION, THIS ISSUE IS PERSONAL.  

PEGGY HERRERA LOST HER 24-YEAR-OLD SON, JUSTIN Baerga, TO GUN VIOLENCE IN 2022. SHE SAid SHE WANTED TO MOVE HER FAMILY TO A SAFER NEIGHBORHOOD FOR A LONG TIME BUT BUDRENSOME COURT FEES FOR BOTH HER AND HER SON KEPT HER FROM DOING SO.  

“So, it just put us in a lot of debt, and I’ve been wanting to move out of Jamaica Queens for so long and it was very hard,” she said. 

HERRERA SAid HER SON WAS ROUTINELY CRIMINALIZED FOR HIS MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES—RECALLING A 911 CALL SHE MADE IN 2019 IN AN EFFORT TO HELP HER SON EXPERIENCING A MENTAL BREAKDOWN AT THE TIME.  

SHE SAid WHEN SHE TRIED TO ADVOCATE TO KEEP HER SON IN THEIR HOME, SHE WAS ARRESTED—THE CHARGES LATER DROPPED.  

SHE SAid THIS EVENT COUPLED WITH YOUTHFUL OFFENDER COURT FEES FOR HER SON, AND TRAFFIC COURT FEES, PUT HER FAMILY INTO MORE THAN $12,000 OF DEBT THAT TOOK HER FOUR YEARS TO PAY OFF.  

SHE SAid IF THIS LEGISLATION IS PASSED IT WILL HONOR HER SON.  

“It’ll be a celebration for me to finally get this passed. And for the millions of families, I work with that are facing the same thing. They’re choosing between court fees and bills,” said Herrera. 

WHILE THIS LEGISLATION DID NOT PASS IN PREVIOUS YEARS, LAWMAKERS ARE HOPING THIS YEAR IT WILL CROSS THE FINISH LINE. Lawmakers are also hoping to fund the bill in this years budget.