Lawyers Journal

Legislative session comes to a close

The Legislature wrapped up its formal session on 
July 31. Although, they will continue to meet for the rest of the year, it will be on an informal basis. However, in informal legislative sittings, just one objection by a legislator can derail a measure.

At the time Lawyers Journal went to press, there was action on a number of issues of great interest to the bench and bar.

Habitual Offender Bill

Late last month, the Legislature enacted the so-called habitual offender bill. Along with addressing repeat offenders, it calls for a reduction in school zone drug offenses from 1,000 to 300 feet, which the Massachusetts Bar Association supports. It also alters mandatory minimum sentences for certain non-violent drug offenses by raising the amount of drugs necessary to trigger a mandatory minimum sentence. Several key legislators have indicated their desire to revisit mandatory minimum sentences in the new legislative session beginning in January 2013, including House Judiciary Chairman and Conference Committee Co-Chair Rep. Gene O'Flaherty (D-Chelsea), Rep. David Linsky (D-Natick) and Rep. Brad Hill (R-Ipswich), as well as Gov. Deval L. Patrick.

The habitual offender piece of the bill covers over three dozen crimes. Felons sentenced for at least three years for one of the enumerated crimes would trigger the three strikes provisions. For felons serving two life sentences or for felons who get a third strike, parole eligibility will be eliminated.

The MBA, while not having a position on the habitual offender portion of the legislation, is a long term opponent of mandatory minimum sentencing.

At press, the bill was awaiting final action by Patrick.

Foreclosure

The conference committee charged with brokering a compromise on foreclosure legislation finished its work as Lawyers Journal went to press. The final bill seeks to prevent unnecessary foreclosures. This bill focuses on loan modifications and does not contain the Senate-backed mandatory mediation between banks and homeowners. The MBA will urge the Legislature to revisit the mediation proposal during the next legislative session.

Work Place Safety

A bill strongly supported by the MBA, referred to as the "Temporary Workers Right to Know Bill," had passed the House at press time and was being considered by the Senate. The bill protects temporary workers by requiring employers to provide them with written notice of key details of their work assignments and the legal protections available to them.

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