Action picks up as legislative session draws to a close

Issue July 2014 By Lee Ann Constantine

During the last days of the 2013-2014 legislative session, the Legislature took up several bills of interest to the Massachusetts Bar Association.

Juvenile parole: Last month the House passed legislation, by a vote of 127 to 16, providing for the opportunity for parole for juveniles convicted of first degree murder after serving 20 to 25 years. Juveniles convicted in cases deemed to be pre-meditated, committed with malice or extremely cruel would be eligible for parole after serving 25 to 30 years. This bill also increases the wait to 10 years before for a second parole hearing. The MBA, at its May House of Delegates meeting, adopted a set of parole principles for juveniles convicted of murder. The principles oppose legislatively mandated parole eligibility dates and urge courts be empowered to set a parole eligibility date in each case based on an individual assessment of the factors regarding the offender and the offense. At press time the bill was pending in the Senate.

Burial benefits in workers' compensation deaths: Gov. Deval L. Patrick last month signed into law legislation increasing the minimum wage in Massachusetts to $11 incrementally over the next three years. Included in that bill was an MBA-backed proposal to increase burial benefits for workers' compensation deaths from $4,000 to eight times the average weekly wage under the Workers' Compensation Statute. "Increasing the burial benefit will do much to alleviate the financial burden for families who are faced with the shocking and sudden death of a loved one while on the job," said MBA President-Elect Marsha V. Kazarosian before the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development earlier this year.

Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights: Also last month, Patrick signed into law MBA-backed legislation creating a Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights that would establish labor standards and protect the basic rights of domestic workers. The House of Delegates voted at its March meeting to support the bill.

FY15 budget: Earlier this month the Legislature enacted the FY2015 state budget, which provided $15 million for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation. At press time, the budget was awaiting action by Patrick, who has 10 days to review it.