John A. DeFrancisco was first elected to the New York State Senate in 1992. He has been re-elected by substantial margins in each of his subsequent races.
Senator DeFrancisco currently serves as Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and has been instrumental in delivering four fiscally-responsible, on-time state budgets. His position on this powerful committee allows him to play a significant role in reviewing the Governor's proposed budget and developing the Senate's priorities for the State Budget. Senator DeFrancisco has demonstrated his in-depth knowledge of the budget process and is known for his ability to get to the core of an issue by his insightful questioning of witnesses at public budget hearings.
As Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, from 2003 to 2008, Senator DeFrancisco advocated for reforming the nomination process of New York State Supreme Court Justices, as well as improvements to town and village courts. Senator DeFrancisco continues to serve as a member of the Judiciary Committee.
Throughout his service in the State Legislature, Senator DeFrancisco has worked with his Senate Republican colleagues on legislation to help reduce crime, reform welfare, reduce taxes, create jobs, make government more transparent, and to hold the line on state spending.
Senator DeFrancisco also has demonstrated a commitment to issues raised by his constituents. He has fought to protect property owners by advocating for laws that limit the use of eminent domain. He has worked tirelessly to retain and create jobs by: helping to keep the Hutchings Psychiatric Center open when it was scheduled for closure, advancing the Central New York Biotechnology Research Center and the Syracuse Center for Excellence in Environmental Systems, and fighting to have the New York State Umbilical Cord Blood Bank Center built in the Syracuse area. Senator DeFrancisco also was instrumental in establishing Casey's Place, a one-of-a kind respite home in Onondaga County for children with severe medical disabilities, and Ophelia's Place, a center that helps individuals with eating disorders.
Senator DeFrancisco sponsored legislation, which was enacted into law, to help improve neighborhoods and alleviate the problem of vacant homes in the City of Syracuse, by establishing a residential property tax exemption specifically for Syracuse. He also has been instrumental in the success of Grants for Growth by securing $5 million in state funding for the program. Grants for Growth continues to stimulate the local economy and create new jobs through the collaboration between private businesses and leading academic and research institutions within Central New York. In addition, Senator DeFrancisco is a current member of the Regional Economic Development Council to help spur economic growth in the region.
In 2014, Senator DeFrancisco’s legislation “Vince’s Law” passed both houses and was signed into law by the Governor to help keep persistent drunk drivers off our roads. Vince’s Law extends the period of time, in which multiple Driving While Intoxicated convictions can be considered to automatically invoke a felony. It is named for Vincent Russo, an 82-year-old Onondaga County man, who was killed in 2011 by a drunk driver with multiple prior DWI-related convictions.
Senator DeFrancisco also sponsored legislation that provided for the Amber Alert System in New York, and he sponsored the bill that created the "Gold Alert" system to help locate missing vulnerable adults, which was signed into law in 2011. Senator DeFrancisco also sponsored legislation to prohibit disturbances at military funerals, and legislation to penalize anyone who knowingly attends a dog fight. In addition, Senator DeFrancisco continues his fight to strengthen the state's boating laws, and he has passed legislation that would allow for the collection of DNA upon arrest. In 1998, Senator DeFrancisco played a leading role in the adoption of Jenna's Law to eliminate parole for violent felons, and in 2008, he introduced a bill entitled "Erin's Law" that would help to better protect children from abuse and neglect.
Among Senator DeFrancisco's other accomplishments are: In 2006, Senator DeFrancisco sponsored the Bill Leaf-Brandi Woods bill to increase penalties for certain vehicular crimes committed by those previously convicted of a Driving While Intoxicated charge. The Senator also shepherded the Craig J. Todeschini bill through the Senate to increase penalties for drivers who flee police officers. Both bills were named after Central New Yorkers who lost their lives in 2006, and both were signed into law.
Also in 2006, Senator DeFrancisco led the charge to strengthen New York State's Freedom of Information Law. His legislation became law and strengthened the enforcement of the FOIL law. In 2004, Senator DeFrancisco introduced legislation that was one of the first Rockefeller Drug Law Reform bills introduced in the State Senate, and he worked to reach an agreement, which resulted in passage of the Rockefeller Drug Law Reform bill in December of 2004.
Prior to his time in the State Senate, Senator DeFrancisco served 11 years on the Syracuse Common Council, first as Councilor-at-Large and then as Council President. A community leader and education advocate, Senator DeFrancisco is also a former member and President of the Syracuse City School District Board of Education and past Vice President of the Conference of Large City Boards of Education. His contributions to local organizations are numerous. Most notably, he served two terms as President of the Central New York Leukemia Society and was a member of the National Board of Trustees of the organization. He also was a Charter Member of the Board of Trustees and first President of the Central New York Combined Health Appeal.
A lifetime resident of Syracuse, Senator DeFrancisco attended Christian Brothers Academy. In 1968, he graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree from Syracuse University's College of Engineering. While a student at SU, Senator DeFrancisco was Captain of the varsity baseball team and President of the American Institute of Industrial Engineers. Moreover, he received the Eastern College Athletic Conference and Syracuse University Manley Scholar athlete awards his senior year. He was also a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon.
Senator DeFrancisco received his Juris Doctor degree from Duke University in 1971. While at Duke, he was a member of Duke Law Journal's Editorial Board, and graduated in the top 10% of his class.
Senator DeFrancisco was admitted to practice law in New York in 1972, and in Florida in 1973. He is also admitted to practice in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York and before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. The Senator was an associate with Simpson, Thacher and Bartlett law firm in New York City before serving as a Judge Advocate in the United States Air Force from 1972 to 1975. After his military service, he was appointed Assistant District Attorney in Onondaga County, a position he held from 1975 until 1977. From 1978 to 1990, Senator DeFrancisco was an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Syracuse University College of Law.
Senator DeFrancisco has been in the private practice of law since 1977 and is of counsel to the DeFrancisco & Falgitano Law Firm in Syracuse. He and his wife, Linda, have three grown children, eight grandchildren, and reside in Syracuse.