With only 7 days of formal legislative session remaining, the Statehouse has been bustling. Here are a few bills of BBA interest that were the subjects of recent activity:
- First and foremost, our spotlight bill from last week, H4307, which, most notably establishes the minimum length of jail sentences before parole eligibility for juveniles convicted of first degree murder, was enacted by both the House and Senate last week and laid before the Governor. The Governor’s office is now reviewing the bill, and it only needs his signature to become law. The BBA’s Council approved a set of juvenile justice principles, including opposition to juvenile life without parole sentences, in December 2013 after the issue was considered by both its Criminal Law and Delivery of Legal Services Sections. The consensus bill calls for parole eligibility after:
- 20-30 years for juveniles convicted of first degree murder,
- 25-30 years for juveniles convicted of first degree murder committed with deliberate premeditation and malice aforethought, and
- 30 years for juveniles convicted of first degree murder committed with extreme atrocity or cruelty.
- Speaker Robert DeLeo’s gun bill, H4278, which we last discussed a couple of weeks ago, went before the Senate last week. The Senate passed it’s own version of the bill, S1126; although very similar to the House’s bill, it notably limited discretion for police chiefs in granting rifle permits. Earlier this week, the legislature appointed a conference committee consisting of Representatives Ron Mariano, Garrett Bradley, and George Peterson, and Senators James Timilty, Anthony Petruccelli, and Bruce Tarr to draft a compromise bill. The committee is still working to reach consensus.
The BBA’s own Gun Control Working Group, comprised of attorneys with diverse backgrounds including gun owners, civil libertarians, a prosecutor, criminal defense attorneys, a law professor, and health law experts, met several times between April and July 2013 to review all of the gun legislation filed by that point – roughly 60 bills. They composed a set of ten principles we use as a lens through which to consider new gun legislation. Both the House and Senate bills contained many of their points of emphasis and we are interested to see how the final bill will mesh with their considerations.
- Our spotlighted bill from last month, S705, a revision of the spousal elective share procedure in Massachusetts, was the subject of a recent meeting at the Statehouse. Led by Senator William Brownsberger, the meeting brought all the parties interested in the bill, both support and opposition, into one room. These experts, including BBA representatives who have spent more than a decade working for spousal elective share reform, engaged in nearly three hours of discussion. They found consensus on a number of issues in the sometimes tense, but ultimately extremely productive meeting. Both support and opposition groups are continuing to work together to reach a mutually agreeable bill. Whether that will happen before the end of formal session remains to be seen.
The end of session is always a busy time, and this year is proving no different. In this final week, we may see major movement on these and other bills. We will continue tracking all the bills of interest to the BBA and our members and do our best to keep you up to date on their progress.
– Jonathan Schreiber
Legislative and Public Policy Manager
Boston Bar Association