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SJC chief sounds notes of caution on crime bill

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The chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court raised two major concerns about the pending crime bill: the lack of judicial discretion on sentencing and the automatic appeals that could flood the high court and hinder its ability to focus on “matters of great public concern.”

The letter from Roderick Ireland to Gov. Deval Patrick was significant on two fronts. It underscored some of the perceived weaknesses in the bill and increased the likelihood that Patrick would seek to change it, either through amendment or through pledges from legislative leaders to address the problems at the start of the next session.

The bill as currently drafted reduces mandatory sentences for some drug offenses while sending offenders convicted of three violent crimes to prison for life without the eligibility of parole. The measure expands the list of violent crimes that would qualify for the three-strikes provision.

Patrick seems divided on the bill. He has said the bill is good but not great. He has expressed concern about the lack of judicial discretion, but indicated he would probably sign the bill if he received assurances from legislative leaders that his concerns could be addressed at the start of the next session.

Politically, the letter was also significant. Ireland and Patrick have been at odds with each other since Ireland joined House Speaker Robert DeLeo at a press conference last summer announcing his support for legislation that would keep probation in the judiciary rather than move it to the executive branch, as the governor wanted to do. Patrick’s request for Ireland’s input on the crime bill indicates the chief justice and the governor who appointed him to that post may have buried the hatchet.

                                                                                                                                                --BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

A CommonWealth Voices piece analyzes the House’s bottle bill tax delusion. But in an editorial, the Eagle-Tribune says it’s ironic Republican Sen. Robert Hedlund is pushing an expanded bottle deposit law because the bill is a raid on taxpayers’ wallets.

The head of Attorney General Martha Coakley’s criminal bureau is selected as the new inspector general by Gov. Deval Patrick, Auditor Suzanne Bump, and Coakley, the Sun reports.

The Gateway Cities legislative caucus is starting to flex its muscle on Beacon Hill, CommonWealth reports.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Legislature’s delay in granting road repair funding has caused towns to scramble to make fixes before the end of the season, the Patriot Ledger reports. The House and Senate blame each other for holding up funds.

The Greater Boston Food Bank is increasing deliveries to Taunton, the Brockton Enterprise reports.

Mayor Tom Menino backs off the line the in the chicken coop sand that he had drawn in his battle with Chick-fil-A. Greater Boston explores whether Menino should really be taking on companies that don’t mesh with his views. The National Review Online argues that Menino and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel are abusing their power for opposing the expansion of Chick-fil-A into their respective cities. Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, and Bruins goalie Tim Thomas race to defend culture-war chicken sandwiches.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

A New York Times editorial raps both presidential campaigns for running from a gun control debate.

ELECTION 2012

US Sen. Scott Brown receives the endorsement of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, while Elizabeth Warren gets the backing of the Massachusetts Credit Union League in Worcester. Bloomberg, who cofounded a group called Mayors Against Illegal Guns, is backing Brown primarily because of his opposition to one pro-gun measure even though Brown’s overall record is more favorable to guns than Warren’s, the Globe reports.

The British press has a field day with Mitt Romney’s series of missteps during his London visit. Talking Points Memo’s roundup is here. Romney’s trip was supposed to showcase his foreign policy chops, but he’s managed to draw public rebukes from the mayor of London and the British prime minister, both of whom are conservatives. The guy is a shambles! Meanwhile, others have a field day with his comments that he doesn’t know when his wife’s horse will compete in Olympic dressage and doesn’t plan to watch.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A fire destroys a warehouse at a mill complex in Charlton, causing $2 million in damage, NECN reports.

The Globe reports that the parent company of Brookline Bank may be out more than $4 million in connection with loans made to Curt Schilling’s failed 38 Studios gaming company.

Google will launch a super-high speed internet and TV service in Kansas City that will compete with cable companies.

EDUCATION

The state received applications to open 21 new charter schools, a level of interest that is putting several communities at or close to the state-imposed cap on charter students in a district.

HEALTH CARE

WBUR’s CommonHealth blog examines Gov. Patrick’s 11th-hour bid to rein in expensive hospitals.  A Globe editorial pours some cold water on Patrick’s proposal.

TRANSPORTATION

A stretch of I-93 is ranked the 15th worst Friday afternoon commute in the country, Governing reports.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Attorney General Martha Coakley is asking state regulators to fine National Grid $16.3 million for what she calls the utility’s inadequate response to last August’s Tropical Storm Irene and a rare October snowstorm.

MEDIA

WGBH acquires Public Radio International, a content producer based in Minneapolis, PRI reports.  Although the financial terms were not disclosed, the Globe reports that PRI will not receive a capital infusion or other funding from WBGH.

Circulation revenue is now bigger than advertising revenue at the New York Times, which owns the Boston Globe, New York magazine reports.

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