Latest pitch on three-strikes bill may have been a foul tip
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
If you’re having a hard time figuring this Legislature out, especially the House, join the crowd. Lawmakers overwhelmingly voted last week to override three of Gov. Deval Patrick
’s vetoes in the budget by margins that would make him think someone changed his party registration without telling him.
But now, they’re making noises like they hope the peripatetic governor saves them from themselves, kind of a “Stop us before we kill again” moment. A six-member negotiation team of House and Senate members voted to send a compromise “three strikes” bill with sentencing reform to the full Legislature
. But their comments would have you think that was the purpose of their appointments, not to actually find a bill that would survive.
Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty
of Chelsea, the lead House conferee and soon-to-be former Judiciary Committee co-chairman, acknowledged that Patrick wanted a bill that made compromises in sentencing and penalties that would help reduce the bursting-at-the-seams state prisons. But O’Flaherty doesn’t know if this measure meets that demand.
In addition, O’Flaherty, who has a law practice, also expressed his reservations for eliminating judicial discretion in sentencing even though he voted to move the bill.
“Anytime that we add more mandatory minimum sentences it concerns me,” he told the State House News Service. “I think that in Massachusetts we have a judiciary that’s appointed and they’re appointed to exercise their judgment.”
So why vote in favor? Good question. Sen. Cynthia Creem
, who was the sole vote against letting the compromise see the light of day, says she was troubled by the “last minute” decision by House members
to remove a “safety valve” that would have allowed judges to sentence nonviolent drug offenders to parole.
It’s the latest turn of events in the ongoing struggle in how to decide what to do with society’s miscreants and at what cost. Earlier this year, CommonWealth
had a story focusing on how some conservative-led states are rethinking the way they use the prison system
. It seems to run counter to what the Legislature is trying to deliver to a reluctant governor.
Last year at this time, Patrick and his Secretary of Public Safety Mary Beth Heffernan
were declaring that the funding offered by the Legislature would force the administration to close two prisons
and release some offenders early in order to relieve overcrowding. Lawmakers upped the Department of Correction budget but Patrick still insisted sentencing reform was essential to thwart future problems.
In January, the administration released a Master Plan
by the Division of Capital Asset Management
that said prison overcrowding was going to cost the state $2.3 billion over the next decade without serious reform. The plan, which called for alternative sentencing for some nonviolent offenders, said any bill that reduces judicial discretion in sentencing would only exacerbate the already untenable situation in the state’s 18 corrections facilities.
Little of that, it seems, is part of the compromise bill. Now it’s up to Patrick to decide if legislators mean business, or are just going through the motions for perception’s sake. --JACK SULLIVANBEACON HILL
The Legislature voted to take an up-or-down vote on the casino compact
Gov. Deval Patrick
signed with the Mashpee Wampanoag
, preventing the addition of any amendments.
The Massachusetts House overrides several Patrick vetoes,
including the restoration of $450,000 for projects in Lowell, the Sun reports
Representatives from groups representing electricity generators and environmental activists
protest a bill that would guarantee a 15-year power contract to a company planning to build a natural gas plant on the site of the coal-fired plant in Salem, the Salem News reports
The Vote 17 bill
pushed by teenagers in Lowell appears to be dead for this session, the Lowell Sun reports
. Yet media fascination
with the story continues to grow, as the Wall Street Journal reports
on the student effort.
Two of aides to former probation commissioner John O’Brien
have been granted immunity in exchange for their testimony against him, the Globe reports
. Howie Carr reveals
the two questions running through O’Brien’s mind right now: “Is it too late for me to get on the train? Who can I give them?” One Democratic legislator tells
, “This isn’t over by a long shot.”
The Herald calls Patrick’s bluff
and tries to videotape legislators arriving in the State House garage, with predictable results. MUNICIPAL MATTERSLawrence Mayor William Lantigua
presses Cardinal Sean O’Malley
to sell surplus church property without restrictions on its usage, particularly a prohibition against use as a charter school, the Eagle-Tribune reports
. The practice originally came to light in a CommonWealth story
and followup article
Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch reappointed the man he initially tapped as fire chief
after an outside panel of fire chiefs mandated by the Civil Service Commission
recommended his selection.
The creative economy coordinator position in Holyoke
is has attracted more than a dozen candidates
Animal control officers captured an escaped 12-foot python
but residents are upset that no official notification ever went out from public safety officials about the threat in a residential neighborhood filled with children and small pets.CASINOS
The state Gaming Commission hears testimony
that the casino market is rapidly shifting underneath the state’s feet, but one of the House’s point men on gaming remains adamant about the state licensing three casinos. NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTONPlanned Parenthood
fights Arizona law in court, The Daily Beast reports
plan to get around Republicans’
pledge not to vote to raise taxes by allowing all of the Bush-era tax cuts
to expire at the end of this year, and then voting to reinstate all but those affecting the wealthy, the Globe reports
The editors of the conservative National Review
call on Mitt Romney
to release more tax returns
and move in, saying “Perception matters.” The GOP pressure on Romney reveals how little respect he commands, even as the party’s nominee, the Atlantic argues
Meanwhile, Romney says at a Mississippi fundraiser
that the label of the GOP as the “party of the rich” is “an awful moniker.” He then handed out his new equally-bad moniker: “We’re the party of people who want to get rich.”
Meanwhile, Rush Limbaugh
thinks the villain in the new Batman
movie, Bane, is a deliberate attempt to smear
Romney. Except that the character was created in the 1990s by a conservative writer.New Jersey
Gov. Chris Christie
is way too fun
to become Romney’s VP pick.
The Globe finds
that Scott Brown
is raising most of his high-dollar donations from Massachusetts, in contrast to Elizabeth Warren
, whose large donations came mostly from out of state.
Elizabeth Warren talks
about financial accountability during a forum at the JFK Library.Obama
volunteers are campaigning in solidly red states like Alabama
in order to put them in play for Democrats years from now, the Globe reports
.Scot Lehigh compares Romney’s
fiscal plan to House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s.Former state senator Andrea Nucifuro
discusses rebuilding the middle class
as he campaigns for Congress in North Adams.BUSINESS/ECONOMY
Reports says looming defense cuts could shut down GE plant in Lynn,
the city’s biggest employer, the Item reports
. Officials in Phoenix and San Diego
say the cuts will be devastating for their communities, the Christian Science Monitor reports
The CEO of Polartec in Lawrence
says he is stepping down as the parent company prepares to sell the firm, the Eagle-Tribune reports
.EDUCATIONMIT promotes online teaching
by paying students $1,000 for each instructional video they create, WBUR reports
The Lawrence Health Board
proposes a plan to combat obesity that includes a limit on fast-food restaurants, restrictions on sugary drinks, more hiking trails, and expanded farmers markets. The story
by the Eagle-Tribune
calls Lawrence the most obese city in the state.
A rolling rally is held downtown to honor Massachusetts General Hospital
for winning the top spot in US News and World Report’s
hospital rankings, NECN reports
.The state will begin spraying for mosquitoes
in 11 communities in the south after EEE-infected bugs were discovered. Here’s NECN’s report
.ENERGY/ENVIRONMENTGordon van Welie,
the head of the region’s power grid operator, explains in a Perspective piece
why the shift to natural gas is good and bad.
Permits for building commercial wind turbines in a 250-square mile area on the Atlantic Continental Shelf
off the coasts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island could be issued as early as December, but developers would have to agree to at least five years of study on environmental impact.
The Fall River Redevelopment Authority
wants assurances that a proposed biogas plant that will turn food waste into energy will be a good neighbor
by keeping odor down and washing out delivery trucks before they leave the facility.The Cape
is second only to Boston
for the number of installed, large scale solar projects.CRIMINAL JUSTICEDavid Kennedy
, the architect of Boston’s successful anti-gang strategy of the 1990s, tells CommonWealth
how the mayhem of urban gun violence can be stopped.New evidence may help solve the mystery
behind who kidnapped and killed Molly Bish
, a private investigator tells Greater Boston
What publications do bloggers
link to? A Poynter study
Incoming New York Times
public editor Margaret Sullivan shares lessons learned
in her handling of a controversial crime story in Buffalo in Nieman Reports.
A Chinese theme park offers discounts to women who wear mini-skirts
, Time reports