About Former Senator John A. DeFrancisco
Senator John A. DeFrancisco served as the New York State Senate Deputy Majority Leader.
He was first elected to the New York State Senate in 1992 and then was re-elected by substantial margins in each of his subsequent races. Senator DeFrancisco represented the 50th State Senate District, which comprises most of Onondaga County and parts of Cayuga County, including the City of Auburn.
Prior to being named Deputy Majority Leader of the State Senate in July of 2015, Senator DeFrancisco served as Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and was instrumental in delivering five on-time state budgets. His position on this committee allowed him to play a significant role in reviewing the Governor's proposed budget and developing the Senate's priorities for the state budget. Moreover, Senator DeFrancisco demonstrated his in-depth knowledge of the budget process and ability to get to the core of an issue by his insightful questioning of witnesses at public budget hearings.
Senator DeFrancisco also served as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, from 2003 to 2008. In this position, Senator DeFrancisco advocated for reforming the nomination process of New York State Supreme Court Justices, as well as improving town and village courts.
Throughout his service in the New York State Legislature, Senator DeFrancisco worked with his Senate Republican colleagues on legislation to help reduce crime, reform public assistance, reduce taxes, create jobs, control state spending, and to increase government transparency. Senator DeFrancisco was the Senate sponsor and champion of legislation, signed into law by Governor Cuomo in 2018, that will create the nation's first prosecutorial conduct commission. This commission will serve as an independent body to review and investigate complaints of prosecutorial misconduct. It will have the authority to discipline prosecutors, who are determined to have acted improperly, or to clear prosecutors’ names of wrongdoing. Senator DeFrancisco also sponsored legislation that would enhance the integrity of the state’s procurement process by restoring the State Comptroller’s oversight of SUNY, CUNY and OGS centralized contracts.
Senator DeFrancisco has demonstrated a strong commitment to resolving issues raised by his constituents. When the historically wet spring of 2017 resulted in serious flood damage along Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Champlain, Seneca Lake, the St. Lawrence River, Seneca River, Oswego River, Oneida River and/or Cross Lake, and their tributaries, Senator DeFrancisco pushed for millions of dollars in funds to help repair damage to homes, business, farms and infrastructure.
Senator DeFrancisco previously fought to protect property owners by advocating for laws that limit the use of eminent domain. He also has worked tirelessly to retain and create jobs by helping to keep the Hutchings Psychiatric Center open when it was scheduled for closure, and advancing the Central New York Biotechnology Research Center and the Syracuse Center for Excellence in Environmental Systems.
Senator DeFrancisco was the moving force behind the creation of the Upstate Cord Blood Bank built in the Syracuse area. He secured $15 million in state funding for the construction of the 20,000 square foot, state-of-the art facility, which opened its doors on Upstate’s Community Campus in February of 2017, enabling Upstate New York to have one of only two public cord blood banks in New York. Previously, Senator DeFrancisco 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 further 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. He also has contributed to the success of the Grants for Growth program, 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.
During his tenure, Senator DeFrancisco always fought to help improve public safety. In 2016, Senator DeFrancisco's bill to enact Tiffany Heitkamp's law passed both Houses and was signed into law by Governor Cuomo. This new law strengthens penalties for boating while intoxicated offenses by linking them to prior drinking while driving offenses involving a vehicle. The bill requires courts to consider prior Driving While Intoxicated or Driving While Ability Impaired convictions, when sentencing a person for Boating While Intoxicated or Boating While Ability Impaired. In 2014, Senator DeFrancisco’s legislation “Vince’s Law” was signed into law by the Governor to help keep persistent drunk drivers off public roads. Vince’s Law extends the period of time, in which multiple Driving While Intoxicated convictions can be considered, to automatically invoke a felony. Senator DeFrancisco also was the co-sponsor of legislation that would create Maddox’s Law and establish the offense of murder in the first degree when the intended victim is a child 12 years or younger.
Senator DeFrancisco also sponsored legislation that provided for the Amber Alert System in New York, and he then sponsored the bill that created the "Gold Alert" system in 2011 to help locate missing vulnerable adults. Moreover, Senator DeFrancisco advocated for legislation that would allow for the collection of DNA upon arrest, and he sponsored legislation to prohibit disturbances at military funerals. In 1998, Senator DeFrancisco played a leading role in the adoption of Jenna's Law to eliminate parole for violent felons.
Senator DeFrancisco's other accomplishments include his successful efforts to provide New Yorkers with access to quality legal representation. The 2017-18 State Budget provided for a six-year plan to increase the state’s investment in indigent legal services. This new law relieves counties of part of the cost of providing such counsel, placing that responsibility on the state.
In 2006, Senator DeFrancisco sponsored the Bill Leaf-Brandi Woods bill to increase penalties for certain vehicular crimes committed by those 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, which were signed into law in 2006, were named after Central New Yorkers who lost their lives.
Also in 2006, Senator DeFrancisco led the charge to strengthen the enforcement of New York State's Freedom of Information 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 joining 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 previously held the position of President of the Syracuse City School District Board of Education and 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 organization’s national board of trustees. He also was a charter member of the board of trustees and first President of the Central New York Combined Health Appeal.
A lifelong 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 Syracuse University, Senator DeFrancisco was Captain of his 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. As a student at Duke, he was a member of Duke Law Journal's Editorial Board, and he 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 the 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 at the Syracuse University College of Law, where he taught Constitutional Law, Criminal Law and trial practice.
Senator DeFrancisco has been in the private practice of law since 1977 and is of counsel to the DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Law Firm in Syracuse. He and his wife, Linda, have three grown children, eight grandchildren, and reside in DeWitt.
Last edited by Senator John A. DeFrancisco's staff prior to last day in office.