STATE CAPITOL BRIEFS - MORNING EDITION - WEDNESDAY, JUNE 6, 2018
6/6/18 11:43 AM
- LAWMAKERS: FEELEY WAS INFLUENCED BY DEFENDANT'S IMMIGRATION STATUS
- LIFE SCIENCES BILL ON MOVE EARLY IN HOUSE SESSION
- BUDGET ANALYSTS FLAG HOUSING, EDUCATION, HEALTH CARE DIFFERENCES
- WRITE-IN FIELD GROWS IN WESTERN MASS. SENATE DISTRICT
- BAKER WANTS CHEVALIER TO FACE MURDER CHARGE IN MASS.
- FRAMINGHAM SUING OPIOID MAKERS, DISTRIBUTORS
- CHILD RAPIST CHAPMAN ARRESTED ON NEW CHARGES
LAWMAKERS: FEELEY WAS INFLUENCED BY DEFENDANT'S IMMIGRATION STATUS
[Story Developing] Lawmakers pushing for the removal of Essex County Superior Court Judge Timothy Feeley said they learned Tuesday that Feeley made a controversial decision based in part on the defendant's immigration status, information they said compounds their calls for him to be taken off the bench. At a State House press conference, Rep. Geoff Diehl said new details of a discussion between Feeley and a defense attorney "made clear" that Feeley sentenced Manuel Soto-Vittini to probation instead of prison time on drug dealing charges "partially because the defendant was also someone who was here as an immigrant who would have been subject to deportation." Diehl said Feeley indicated he would have sent Soto-Vittini to jail if he were an American citizen. "The judgement of Judge Tim Feeley obviously was compromised, and we feel that based on this and several other decisions recently, he does need to step down for the bench, whether it's voluntarily as a resignation or whether it's through an impeachment," Diehl said. The new details stem from a transcript of a lobby conference discussion, according to Diehl and others. Rep. James Lyons, who joined Diehl at the press conference, said he had not seen the transcript but had read about it in the Salem News. - Katie Lannan/SHNS
LIFE SCIENCES BILL ON MOVE EARLY IN HOUSE SESSION
The House on Wednesday morning further amended a nearly half-a-billion dollar life sciences bill that the Senate passed last Thursday. Both branches have approved differing versions of the bill and lawmakers are scrambling to finish work on it before the end of the international BIO convention, which is being held this week in Boston. The House shortly after gaveling in on Wednesday adopted an amendment offered by Economic Development Committee Co-chair Rep. Joseph Wagner and sent the bill back to the Senate. The Senate is meeting Wednesday in a formal session. - Michael P. Norton/SHNS
BUDGET ANALYSTS FLAG HOUSING, EDUCATION, HEALTH CARE DIFFERENCES
State budget negotiators have their work cut out for them as they try this month to reconcile House and Senate spending plans, particularly around education, housing and health care, according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. In a preview of the conference committee, MassBudget said the two budgets "reflect similar values" but are both "constrained by limited revenue and are not able to make progress in a number of important areas." Around education, the House proposed about $8.22 billion in spending and the Senate proposed $8.26 billion. But the House focused on early education, while the Senate put more into funding for K-12 public schools. The conference committee, which will hold its first meeting on Thursday, must also decide what to do with the Senate provision requiring a college to give 120 days notice to the Board of Higher Education if it plans to shut down. Negotiators will also have to hash out housing spending and policy difference. The House proposes more funding for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program than the Senate, but approved "significantly less" than the Senate for the emergency assistance program that provides shelter for low-income homeless families, MassBudget said. The Senate's plan to increase Registry of Deeds fees to fund the Community Preservation Act Trust Fund will also have to be addressed. Health care spending accounts for almost half of the budget and MassBudget said conferees will have to debate a Senate plan to allow the state to negotiate drug prices directly with manufacturers to obtain rebates and must iron out differences between the House's $20.69 billion in health care spending and the Senate's $20.60 billion. Reps. Jeffrey Sanchez, Stephen Kulik and Todd Smola will meet Thursday morning with Sens. Karen Spilka, Joan Lovely and Vinny deMacedo to begin hashing out the compromise fiscal year 2019 budget. The House passed a $41.065 billion fiscal year 2019 budget and the Senate adopted a $41.49 billion spending plan for FY 2019. - Colin A. Young/SHNS
WRITE-IN FIELD GROWS IN WESTERN MASS. SENATE DISTRICT
Another write-in candidate has emerged for the Western Massachusetts Senate seat last held by Stan Rosenberg. Jo Comerford of Northampton distributed flyers at last weekend's state Democratic Convention, asking voters in the 24 communities of the Hampshire Franklin and Worcester Senate district to write in her name on the Sept. 4 Democratic primary ballot. A campaign director for MoveOn.Org, Comerford has also worked as director of the Western Massachusetts American Friends Service Committee, director of programs at The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, and executive director of the National Priorities Project. The flyers describe Comerford as "invested in" issues including free public higher education, single-payer health care, paid family and medical leave, renewable energy, and "economic development and innovation grounded in a living wage, adequately funded regional transit authorities, affordable housing, food security and local businesses and farms." Rosenberg, an Amherst Democrat and the former Senate president, resigned on May 4, leaving his seat three days after the filing deadline for candidates to run in the fall election. Northampton Democrat Chelsea Kline had already planned to run, and her name will be the only one that appears on the ballot. Democrats Steven Connor, Ryan O'Donnell and Dave Murphy have all announced write-in bids. - Katie Lannan/SHNS
BAKER WANTS CHEVALIER TO FACE MURDER CHARGE IN MASS.
A 51-year-old New Hampshire man accused in a North Andover killing is in custody in California, and Gov. Charlie Baker has officially requested that he be sent back to face murder charges here. Brian Chevalier, who is wanted in connection with the April murder of his former fiancee Wendi Davidson, was arrested on April 25 in Mexico, turned over to U.S. officials and held by the Imperial County Sheriff's Department in California, according to Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett's office. "There is a process of coordination between governors' offices, and that process has begun," Baker spokeswoman Sarah Finlaw said in a statement Tuesday. "The Governor sent a requisition to California for this fugitive on May 30." Chevalier, who is also charged with a parole violation out of New Hampshire, did not waive rendition when he was arraigned on fugitive from justice charges in California, according to Blodgett's office. - Katie Lannan/SHNS
FRAMINGHAM SUING OPIOID MAKERS, DISTRIBUTORS
[Developing] In the latest twist to the opioid crisis, the City of Framingham plans to take drug manufacturers and distributors to state court, hiring an international law firm and seeking to hold companies accountable for the damage and rising costs that prescription painkillers are inflicting on that city. The city is alleging the conduct of the so-far-unnamed defendants that will be targeted in the lawsuit "has imposed a direct, foreseeable, and substantial financial burden on the City of Framingham" with an "increasingly large" amount of public resources being channeled each year to address the defendants' alleged behavior. Mayor Yvonne Spicer, who took office in January, has hired as its special counsel Scott+Scott Attorneys at Law LLP, a firm headquartered in Connecticut with offices in New York, Ohio, California and London. The firm, which is experienced in complex business litigation, will try to prove the drug industry knew about the addictive nature of opioids but recklessly promoted them in order to expand the market for their prescription drugs, leading to "huge profits." Framingham is the latest community to join what the Massachusetts Municipal Association this winter called a "nationwide movement" of suing pharmaceutical companies for municipal costs associated with the opioid abuse epidemic. - Michael P. Norton/SHNS
CHILD RAPIST CHAPMAN ARRESTED ON NEW CHARGES
Wayne Chapman, the convicted child rapist whose expected release from prison prompted Gov. Charlie Baker to call for harsher penalties for serial sex offenders, was arrested Wednesday morning on new charges. Officers from the Department of Correction and Massachusetts State Police arrested Chapman for indecent exposure; lewd, wanton and lascivious acts; and open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior. According to the DOC, the charges stem from incidents at the state prison in Shirley on Sunday and Monday. Chapman remains in DOC custody and the department said it is seeking an arraignment Wednesday in Ayer District Court. Baker on Tuesday said he planned to file legislation this week to "significantly expand" penalties for serial child rapists and change the review process for their release. Sentenced to 30 years in prison in 1977 for the rapes of two boys, Chapman has been civilly committed to prison as a sexually dangerous person and was slated for release after two psychologists ruled he was no longer a danger. "The fact that somebody who has admitted to somewhere between 50 and 100 rapes of a child, I mean this guy should never get out and I think it's unfortunate, disgraceful in some respects, that we find ourselves in this position, but if we don't learn from this experience and make adjustments so that it can't happen in the future, shame on us," Baker said Tuesday. Last week, Baker said he did not believe he or his administration could do anything to prevent Chapman's release. - Katie Lannan/SHNS
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