For months now, lawmakers like state Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, and Manchester’s House representative, Brad Hill, R-Ipswich, have worked feverishly to reach a viable compromise on a critical reform bill that would finally bring some truth in sentencing and rightfully deny three-time violent offenders a chance at parole.
And Gov. Deval Patrick has been supportive of many aspects of the bill, which also revises the defined size of “school zones” pegged in the arrest of drug dealers, and decreases mandates for sentences in some drug cases.
But over the weekend, the governor added his own amendment to the sentencing bill — one that would add a “safety valve” for judges and give them discretion in doling out non-parole sentences to suspects who have indeed been convicted of two prior, significant offenses. And in pushing that approach, the governor has, sadly, taken all of the teeth out of a bill that is needed in part because too many judges have already been using too much flexibility in sentencing and allowing multiple violent offenders to go through a parole system that’s corrupted in its own right.
Tarr, Hill and others have renewed their commitment to getting an override of the governor’s amendment, and still looking to get this bill passed by the legislative witching hour, midnight tonight. And we hope the full Houses and Senate can get through their veto overrides and convince the governor to sign the measure by the deadline.
Yet Hill also suggests that the Legislature should not pass a bill with the “safety valve” amendment in place so the governor will sign it. That would simply put in place a bill so hopelessly gutted that it would be virtually useless to the public — and public safety.
This is a time when the Legislature must hold its ground. If that means no bill, then let that — and the next crime committed by a three-time violent offender – be squarely on the governor’s hands.