During the 2013-2014 session, I was intimately involved in negotiations on two signature pieces of legislation: the new gun law and domestic violence law. These new laws are now being implemented and your feedback would be appreciated.
Domestic Violence Bill: The unfortunate reality is that some families living in my district will be affected by domestic violence at some point during their lives. I am hopeful that the passage of new legislation will protect victims of abuse and prevent incidents from escalating to more violent crimes.
The Legislature took a multi-pronged approach, with an emphasis on protection services, closing loopholes in current laws and education, which is crucial as part of the struggle against violence in the home.
This legislation delays bail for offenders to provide the victim with time for safety planning and authorizes the revocation of bail in certain cases. It also establishes a first offense domestic assault and battery charge, which we did not have because of a loophole.
The bill creates a specific felony charge of strangulation and suffocation, actions that statistically indicate an abuser is more likely to commit domestic violence related homicide in the future, and establishes penalties of up to 5 years in state prison, up to 2 1/2 years in a house of correction, by a fine of up to $5,000 or by both a fine and imprisonment.
In addition, the antiquated practice of allowing accord and satisfaction, a practice in which parties agree to a private settlement, is also abolished. Victims often feel pressure from their abuser to reconcile and are not emotionally able to resist their demands making this provision inappropriate for domestic violence related offenses. To increase confidentiality and track and identify high-risk cases, the legislation requires that police log entries related to domestic violence are kept in a separate log.
Gun Control Bill: Also last session I was proud of my role and that of my colleagues in crafting a bi-partisan, first in the nation gun control bill to create more accountability for all participants in the firearms licensing process. The bill was supported by Stop Handgun Violence and GOAL, the local branch of the NRA. The intent is to improve public safety while preserving the rights of law-abiding gun owners. Some of the provisions include:
- Allowing local licensing authorities to petition the district court to determine whether an applicant is suitable to have an Firearms Identification card (FID).
- Firearms dealers will also be required to conduct Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) checks on employees.
- Makes Massachusetts compliant with the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) so that local officials will know if out of state criminals attempt to purchase guns in Massachusetts.
- Creates new firearms crimes such as assault and battery by discharge of a firearm.
- Requires the state's Department of Criminal Justice Information Services (DCJIS) to create a "real-time web portal" to revamp the private firearms sale process. This should make it easier for applicants to determine the status of their license application.
- Requires the Chief of Police and school Superintendent to assign a school resource officer to each school district; and
- Requires schools to address the mental health needs of students and staff.
In 2014, I was able to insert spending requests for the towns of Cohasset, Hingham and Hull into the Environmental Bond bill approved by the Legislature. The money would fund storm water and rivershed management, seawall, and solar energy projects. Release of any funds through the bonding process is contingent upon the current fiscal situation. The following local projects are designed to protect local property owners and improve water quality for residents.
Under this plan, Cohasset would receive a total of $6,400,000 to improve and raise the seawalls located along Cohasset Harbor, to mitigate the impacts of sea level rise and severe storms, remove invasive aquatic species from local ponds, and replace the Bound Brook culverts that run under Beechwood Street.
Hingham would receive a total of $4,096,456 to repair and improve seawalls located near the Whitney, Kimball, Barnes, and Steamboat Wharves, develop a solar energy farm on the town landfill, storm water management efforts, and a stream gauge in the Weir River at Leavitt Street and to measure water flow.
Hull would receive a total of $9,385,285 to resurface and reconstruct 2.2 miles of Nantasket Avenue, which is in poor condition, including the replacement of sidewalks, curbing and other associated infrastructure, close the town landfill and construct a transfer station on the site, and repair the Nantasket Avenue Seawall between Stoney Beach and Point Allerton.