GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

December 19, 2011

Tarr, Hill seated on habitual offender bill panel

By Times Staff

Cape Ann's state senator and the Republican House member who represents Manchester will both be part of the joint committee charged with hammering out differences between the state House and Senate's versions of a tough new Massachusetts' habitual offender law.

State Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, and state Rep. Brad Hill, the seven-term Republican whose 4th Essex District includes Manchester, along with Hamilton, Wenham, Middleton and his hometown of Ipswich, have both been named to the panel, with House Minority Leader Bradley Jones Jr., R-North Reading, choosing Hill last week.

"I am very confident that Rep. Hill will continue to be a strong advocate for the most substantive legislation relative to repeat, violent offenders in nearly a decade," Jones said. "His personal involvement with this piece of legislation, coupled with his ability to work well with other legislators will make him an important asset on the conference committee."

Tarr, meanwhile, has been a driving force behind the bill from the start, and got it through the Senate on a rare 36-0 vote.

"It's moving along very well," said Tarr. "There are differences; there is a lot in the Senate bill that is not included in the House bill, so when we try to reconcile that, it's going to be a challenge.

"But the overriding issue," he said, "is to try to get these reforms in place as soon as possible, because this really is a matter of public safety."

Both bills are designed to give law enforcement officials new tools in protecting the public from repeat violent offenders.

The proposal is often known as Melissa's Bill, after Melissa Gosule, a 27-year-old teacher who was raped and killed in 1999 by a habitual violent criminal.

Her father, Les Gosule, has been pushing for legislation to restrict parole for repeat offenders since her death and gained traction last year, after a Woburn police officer was shot and killed by a paroled violent offender.

Hill was also an original sponsor of the bill 10 years ago after Gosule's rape and slaying.

"This is a very important piece of legislation that will affect every citizen in the Commonwealth," Hill said. "I look forward to working with my House and Senate colleagues to reconcile any differences between the two branches and put forth a comprehensive bill that will make Massachusetts safer."

Tarr said he hopes to get a bill through conference committee shortly after the first of the year, and Senate President Therese Murray has said she hoped that would result in a compromise proposal by sometime in January.

It would then go to the governor's desk to be signed into law.