Today is the final day of formal session for the legislature. By around midnight tonight, if controversial bills have not been addressed by the legislature, it is likely that they will have to wait until a new formal session begins in January 2015. Here is the latest news on some of the bills we’ve been tracking:
- The Speaker’s gun control legislation which we discussed a few weeks ago and updated last week looks poised to pass by the end of the day. As of last week, a conference committee consisting of Representatives Ron Mariano, Garrett Bradley, and George Peterson, and Senators James Timilty, Anthony Petruccelli, and Bruce Tarr was working to draft a compromise bill from the two bills then before the legislature, H4278 and S1126. The Senate bill differed from the House bill most notably in a provision that removed some discretion from police chiefs in issuing firearm identification cards for rifle or shotgun owners.
The compromise bill, H4376, allows a police chief to petition a judge in district court within 90 days to deny a rifle or shotgun permit. This provision removes the burden potentially placed on citizens in the House bill to fight a police chief-issued denial in court and differs from the Senate bill by maintaining some discretion for police chiefs to take action if they feel it is needed.
This bill contains a number of provisions in line with the principals set forth by the BBA’s Gun Control Working Group including multiple sections that attempt to bring the Commonwealth in line with the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The Working Group was comprised of attorneys with diverse backgrounds – gun owners, civil libertarians, a prosecutor, criminal defense attorneys, a law professor and health law experts, this group met several times last year to review all of the then-filed gun laws.
- A bill streamlining adult guardianship issues also appears to be nearing enactment – S2249, “An Act relative to uniform adult guardianship and protective proceedings jurisdiction,” was ordered to a third reading in the House yesterday. The bill unanimously passed the Senate earlier this month.
The BBA’s Trusts and Estates Section supported a prior version of this bill and general principles of a uniform law on this issue, a position that was approved by the BBA’s Council in November 2013. The bill requires cooperation between courts on guardianship and protective proceedings and authorizes courts to decline to exercise their jurisdiction if it determines at any time that another state’s court is a more appropriate forum. Essentially, this law attempts to synchronize the guardianship system across states, thus improving communication between different state probate court judges, making issues of jurisdiction and enforceability of guardianship and conservatorship orders more efficient, and saving the time and resources of the probate court and attorneys practicing therein.
- An attorney voir dire bill received a fair amount of press in the past few weeks. The original bill, H4123, passed in the House in early June. It proposed a number of changes to certain judicial procedures including permitting attorney-conducted voir dire in Superior Court cases. Those in favor of the bill argued that a majority of states had similar laws and that such laws helped to level the playing field and eliminate discrimination from venire. Opponents of the bill expressed concern that it would increase costs for the courts and local businesses by requiring more potential jurors to be summonsed and increasing the time spent on jury selection from a few hours to possibly several days.
The Senate’s Committee on Ethics and Rules amended the bill and shortly thereafter the Senate passed SB2296. This version of the legislation included language that appeared to give judges more discretion in the process than the House’s version. The House concurred with the Senate amendments, and as of yesterday the bill was enacted by both houses and laid before the Governor to be signed into law.
It looks like it’s going to be a busy day – and possibly a late night – over at the Statehouse as legislators work out the final details of these and other bills. As we keep an eye on the end of this session, we’re already looking forward to the months ahead and will continue to keep you updated on all our legislative happenings.
– Jonathan Schreiber
Legislative and Public Policy Manager
Boston Bar Association