DeLeo on gun violence, state budget, impact of Joyce investigation

Printed from:

House Speaker Robert DeLeo on Sunday checked in with his latest thoughts on gun laws, the state’s budget problems and the impact of a federal investigation into Sen. Brian Joyce.

The powerful Winthrop Democrat was the guest of Janet Wu and Ed Harding Sunday morning on WCVB’s “On the Record.” In addition to disclosing that it’s his first Grandfather’s Day, here’s a summary of his comments:

— ON THE STATE BUDGET WOES: Asked who he could assure would not be hurt by budget decisions that need to be made since spending exceeds tax collection estimates for the current fiscal year and the next one, DeLeo said protecting the neediest in Massachusetts “has always been our role.” But he added, “Sitting here today can I assure anyone of anything? Probably not until we come up with that plan.” Asked about education and local aid, he said those would be two areas “that would probably not be touched,” but then drew some distinctions between K-12, early education, and higher education. Baker and legislative leaders have a meeting planned for 2 p.m Monday in Baker’s office.

— IMPACTS OF INVESTIGATION INTO SEN. JOYCE: Asked about the impact of House subpoenas and records requests in connection with investigations into Sen. Brian Joyce of Milton, DeLeo said: “I think any time that you have that cloud over the State House I think that there is some distraction so to speak. But I’d have to say that I think we’ve been fortunate enough – not only the House but I believe the Senate as well, we’ve been able to operate business as usual. I think no matter how difficult it may be to put these types of things out of your mind I think most importantly we are there to do the people’s business. I think we’ve got some very important legislation that we have to take up. So I’ve been generally pleased at the pace and the ability of members to focus on the subject matters at hand.” Asked if the investigation could drag on for a while, DeLeo said it could. He deferred when asked if Joyce, who is not seeking re-election, should resign. “I leave that up to the Senate president and the senators to decide that.” U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz has subpoenaed records from the House as part of an ongoing investigation into whether state Sen. Joyce illegally used his office to bolster his law practice, House officials confirmed June 13. Joyce has denied all wrongdoing, and earlier this year announced he would not seek re-election, but since that time federal prosecutors have delivered subpoenas to both branches of the Legislature as part of their probe, which included a raid of Joyce’s Canton law offices.

— ON THE FLOW OF ILLEGAL GUNS ACROSS STATE LINES: Speaker DeLeo gave Massachusetts “very high marks” for its gun control laws but said he sees gun violence risks unless other states have similar laws, and expressed concern after he was shown a video of a gun store owner displaying assault weapons with similar calibers that firing capabilities, one of which is banned under state law and the other of which is not. “The major problem in terms of gun flow into the state quite frankly is the lack of action at the federal level. If you were to talk to all of the attorneys general that I have ever dealt with what they will tell you until we can get some control nationwide over guns then we’re going to have difficulties here in Massachusetts in terms of illegal guns flowing into the Commonwealth. We have provided greatly in terms of who, who can’t and what hurdles a person has to go to to get a gun here in Massachusetts – if other states don’t have those same types of regulation . . . ” Citing the increasing frequency of mass shootings, DeLeo expressed support for legislative initiatives aimed at guarding against access to guns for individuals who are on no-fly and terrorist watch lists. Rep. Lori Ehrlich has a proposal (H 3914) that would ban anyone on the terror watch list or the federal no-fly list from purchasing weapons in Massachusetts. The Public Safety Committee held a public hearing on that bill in January and has taken no further action on it.

— ON MOMENTS OF SILENCE IN WAKE OF ORLANDO SHOOTINGS: Asked about U.S. Reps. Katherine Clark and Seth Moulton walking out of a moment of silence in the wake of the mass shooting in Orlando with others who believe silence is not helping solve gun violence, DeLeo said Massachusetts House members had expressed concerns to him last week when the Massachusetts House also observed a moment of silence. “As I told them and they understood, ‘This is in Washington. We’ve done something here, as opposed to what is going on in Washington.” Asked whether he supported those in Congress who walked out, DeLeo said the decision was up to them. “I look at it more as just showing respect for those who were tragically killed,” he said. “If that’s what they felt they should do, then I would have no problem with that.”

— ON CHANGES TO US SENATE APPOINTMENT LAW: If Sen. Elizabeth Warren were picked as Hillary Clinton’s presidential running mate, Gov. Charlie Baker would be permitted to choose an interim senator to serve until a special election. DeLeo expressed no interest in making a third change to the Senate appointment law, which Beacon Hill Democrats altered when former Sen. John Kerry was running for president and again to allow Gov. Deval Patrick to name an interim senator after Sen. Edward Kennedy died. “I’m not interested in making any further changes. We’ve done so twice already,” DeLeo said.

— ON THE TRANSGENDER BILL: Speaker DeLeo said he was “hopeful” that the transgender accommodations bill would reach Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk – the House and Senate have approved differing bills. Gov. Baker prefers the House bill and DeLeo said he hoped that preference would help convince the Senate to agree to the House bill.

— Written by Michael P. Norton

Copyright State House News Service