State Capitol Briefs — Wednesday, June 11, 2014



House Minority Leader Brad Jones plans to file legislation that he says would fix the law authorizing lifetime parole for sex offenders that was struck down on Wednesday by the Supreme Judicial Court, but said the remedy would probably not come as fast as the fix to the court’s ruling legalizing “upskirting.” “I’m not quite sure this will achieve the same landmark record time, but it would be nice if it would,” Jones told the News Service. The state’s highest court on Wednesday ruled unconstitutional a law that gave the Parole Board the authority to punish sex offenders sentenced to community parole supervision for life under a 1999 law because, Justice Ralph Gants wrote, only the judicial branch has the power to incarcerate. Gants wrote that if the Legislature wanted to achieve the goal of lifetime supervision, it could do so by passing a law giving power to a judge, rather than the parole board, to determine “whether a sex offender has violated a condition of supervised release, and whether a new or suspended term of imprisonment should be imposed.” Jones said that while it “bothers” him to see the lifetime parole sentences for nearly 300 sex offenders vacated by the decision, he was “happy” the court provided a blueprint for fixing the law. “We’re look at drafting that solution and getting it filed, either as a separate bill or as part of some other vehicle that may be moving. Obviously we realize that it’s a little later on in the legislative session but if this is a legitimate issue of public safety and should be addressed and can be addressed if people want,” Jones said. After the SJC ruled in March that perpetrators caught taking photos or video underneath a person’s clothes without their knowledge could not be prosecuted under current law, the House and Senate passed a fix within a day to close the loophole. – M. Murphy/SHNS

House lawmakers started dispensing with amendments to House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s economic development package mid-Wednesday afternoon, preserving the bill’s live theater tax credit and rejecting proposals to remove the Legislature’s powers to approve liquor licenses and cap annual salaries of non-profit executives benefiting from the bill at $135,000. The amendments were dispensed on voice votes – Rep. Marc Lombardo (R-Billerica) was unable to muster enough colleagues to support his request for a roll call vote on his push on the theater tax credit’s elimination and the salary cap. Rep. Matt Beaton (R-Shrewsbury) proposed including Gov. Deval Patrick’s liquor license measure in the bill, and it was similarly rejected. House members have filed 184 amendments to the $60 million bill (H 4165). “Our top priorities were to expand economic opportunity beyond Interstate 495,” Rep. Joseph Wagner, a Chicopee Democrat and co-chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development, said in floor remarks at the start of deliberations on the bill. Patrick’s economic development bill had closer to $80 million in initiatives, Wagner said. Lombardo took to the floor to voice his opposition, saying state government shouldn’t be seeking to fix the economy. “There will be winners and losers, but our job is to get out of the way, to let this system of capitalism thrive,” he said. By late afternoon, discussion of amendments appeared to be occurring primarily behind the scenes. – G. Dumcius/SHNS

The Massachusetts House appears poised to act on a bill decriminalizing non-violent and verbal behavior of school students. The legislation cleared the Judiciary Committee in May and reached the House calendar for the first time Wednesday, opening up an opportunity for it to advance. The bill (H 4132) revises the state law covering “disturbing lawful assemblies” in an attempt to prompt elementary and secondary school officials to solve student behavioral problems first before moving to arrest a minor. “Arresting and prosecuting students for non-violent misconduct is a growing problem,” Tina Chery, president and CEO of the Dorchester-based nonprofit Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, wrote in email to supporters in July 2013, days before the committee heard the Senate version of the bill (S 631). “Schools are misusing our existing law in order to justify arresting rowdy, but not otherwise criminal students.” The Senate bill is sponsored by Sen. William Brownsberger (D-Belmont). – G. Dumcius/SHNS

Gov. Deval Patrick on Wednesday joined officials from the Japan External Trade Organization in Boston to sign a memorandum of understanding aimed at strengthening the trade and investment partnership and promoting economic cooperation between Massachusetts and Japan. The memorandum of understanding is the first that the group, known as JETRO, has signed with a state. “I am proud to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with JETRO to promote further collaboration across our innovation economies,” Patrick, who visited Japan in 2013, said in a statement. JETRO is a government-related organization that works to further mutual trade and investment between Japan and the rest of the world. Originally established in 1958 to promote Japanese exports, JETRO’s focus has shifted toward promoting foreign direct investment into Japan and helping smaller Japanese firms maximize their global exports. Under the MOU, the Massachusetts Office of International Trade and Investment and Massachusetts companies may utilize JETRO’s services and network to increase collaborations with Japanese companies. In May, Patrick signed a life sciences memorandum of understanding between Massachusetts and Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture. – H. Donnelly/SHNS


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