Charlie Baker: Sending Dangerousness Bill To Dead-End Study Committee ‘Protects Abusers’

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By Chris Lisinski
State House News Service

The next time lawmakers are in a position to take up a top Governor Charlie Baker priority overhauling how criminal suspects are deemed dangerous, the Republican will be a private citizen.

Top Democrats on the Joint Committee on the Judiciary of the Massachusetts Legislature moved Friday, July 22 to order Baker’s “dangerousness” bill (H.4290) to additional study, effectively killing the measure — which failed to advance in two previous lawmaking sessions — as the governor prepares to leave office in January.

An incensed Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito blasted the decision on Friday, recounting months of public events they have held with survivors to draw attention to the reforms proposed.

“The Judiciary Committee’s incomprehensible decision to send our Administration’s dangerousness bill to study is an insult to survivors,” Baker said. “Lt. Governor Polito and I have spent the past several months meeting with brave survivors across the Commonwealth who spoke out with the hope of protecting others from facing the same horrors they lived through. The Administration’s bill would have closed loopholes in the criminal justice system, while the Legislature’s decision protects abusers at the expense of survivors.”

“The Committee’s actions ignore the survivors who came forward to share their personal stories and demonstrate how this bill would have made a difference,” Polito added.

State Representative Michael Seamus Day (D-Stoneham) and state Senator  Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton), who chair the committee, opened a poll Friday recommending Baker’s bill be ordered to further study more than eight months after the governor filed it. Committee members were given until 4 p.m. to weigh in.

Neither Democrat weighed in on Baker’s bill.

Baker filed earlier versions of the bill in each of the prior two sessions, but lawmakers declined to take it up either time. The latest draft would expand the list of offenses that could provide grounds for a dangerousness hearing, allow police to detain individuals they observe violating court-ordered release conditions, empower judges to revoke a release for violating conditions without an additional dangerousness finding, and create a new felony offense for cutting off a court-ordered Global Positioning System device.

Lawmakers have been relatively tight-lipped about why the bills did not gain any traction, with House Speaker Ron Mariano (D-Quincy) saying vaguely in January that he had heard “some concerns about changing the scope of the dangerousness hearings.” 


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