States Snap at Congress: Stop Mandated Sentencing

THE federal crime bill makes more than criminals unhappy. Last week, the National Conference of State Legislatures wrote to Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Joseph Biden (D) of Delaware to gripe about the legislation.

The organization's chief complaint is mandated sentences, which it said ``are imposed without consideration of the impact on state prison populations and the costs associated with operation of facilities.'' The federal legislation proposes that states adopt tougher gang, juvenile crime, and gun offense laws before becoming eligible for federal assistance.

The states bridle at the federal involvement. ``Criminal justice is principally a matter for state and local government,'' the organization contends.

At a press conference last Friday, New York state Sen. James Lack, who chairs the New York Senate Judiciary Committee, said if the state has to adhere to the proposed laws, the Empire State would have to build new prisons, since the prison population growth would be ``geometric.''

In addition, Mr. Lack said the state would also have to hire more police, more prosecutors, and more judges. ``The Feds are not proposing to pay for it,'' Lack said.

Instead of new federal demands, the states would prefer unrestricted aid for states facing federal court mandates to restrict their prison populations. In January, nine states were placed under court order to reduce their entire prison population. Thirty-three other states are under similar court orders for individual jails.

Over the past 10 years, state spending on new prison facilities has increased at twice the rate of general spending. Now, the states are afraid federal efforts to make Congress look tough on crime will result in still more expenditures. @HEADBRIEF = Republican runs for Manhattan seat

THE Congressional battle for New York's ``silk stocking'' district has been joined.

Last week Republican challenger Charles Millard, a city councilman, announced he would challenge freshman Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D) for the district that includes Manhattan's wealthy east side. Although the seat is heavily Democrat, the district has a history of electing Republicans to Congress, including former Mayor John Lindsay and former Rep. Bill Green, who Ms. Maloney defeated in 1992.

Mr. Millard's political consultant, Joseph Mercurio of National Political Services, says Maloney is vulnerable. ``Her image is very thin,'' Mr. Mercurio says.

Millard says he intends to run on Maloney's vote for the Clinton budget, which increased taxes on the district. In addition, he will remind voters that Maloney voted against NAFTA despite a 1992 campaign promise to vote for it.

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