Republican state lawmakers on Monday called for a rollback of the state's laws that ended cash bail requirements for many criminal charges as the contentious debate over criminal justice and public safety enters yet another election year. 

Democrats, however, have charged the effort amounts fear mongering to a pandemic-weary public as violent crime has spiked during the public health crisis not just in New York state, but around the country. 

Still, Republicans in the state Senate and Assembly have highlighted the issue as the primary contrast between how they would use power in Albany and how majority Democrats have in the last several years.

"It's important that the people of New York state from Nassau County to Niagara County know there is an alternative to the government policies and philosophies and executive orders that have come out of Albany in the last two years," said Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt. 

Ortt, along with dozens of Republican lawmakers, called for judges to have more power over whether a person charged with a crime be remanded to jail as well as providing more aid to law enforcement and crime victims. 

"Crime is up. Violent crime is up," Ortt said. "Assaults, murders, robberies, are up."

But Democrats have also seized on recent statistics released by state court officials showing less than 3% of people who have been arrested are not re-arrested on violent criminal charges. 

"We're now down to less than two-and-a-half percent of people who are out because of bail reform being re-arrested for violent crimes," Democratic Sen. Michael Gianaris said. "So that's a 98%-plus success rate, which is much higher than people who are out who have either paid their bail or are out for other reasons."

"The Republicans have been spreading lies about bail reform since we passed it," he added. 

Advocates for making further changes to New York's criminal justice system have notched key victories in recent years in addition to the cash bail changes. Defendants under the age of 18 are no longer adjudicated as adults in New York for most offenses and the state's prison system has its lowest population since the mid-1980s. 

Still, there may be further work done this year. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who did not reference the bail law debate last week in her address to lawmakers, wants to seal many criminal records for felony and misdemeanor offenses. The measure, known as the "Clean Slate" bill among its supporters, is meant to aid those who have been incarcerated with post-prison job and housing prospects. 

Hochul also pointed to concerns over public safety, calling for greater coordination with law enforcement agencies to combat violent crime and shootings.  

Still, Republican Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay points to broader concerns over some Democratic prosecutors declining to purse prison sentences for some crimes. 

"If you give the judges any discretion to keep our communities safe, they're completely against it," Barclay said. "If that doesn't show they're wrong headed on this, I don't know what does." 

Gianaris, the deputy majority leader in the chamber, said Republicans are trying to scare voters in a bid to regain the majority, which the GOP lost in a 2018 Democratic wave year. 

"The Republicans' playbook is very simple and it's the same every cycle," Gianaris said. "They try scaring the dickens out of people and lie to people about the things they care about. They tried this in 2020 and we came back with a supermajority."