STATE CAPITOL BRIEFS

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

SENATORS TO UNVEIL JUVENILE SENTENCING BILL

A Democrat and a Republican, Sen. Barry Finegold and Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, have teamed up on legislation to respond to the Supreme Judicial Court's recent ruling that life sentences without the possibility of parole for juveniles violate the state's constitution. Finegold, of Andover, and Tarr, of Gloucester, plan a 4 p.m. press conference to detail a bill they intend to file that would address sentencing for juveniles convicted of first degree murder. While the U.S. Supreme Court has similarly found mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles to be unconstitutional, district attorneys are seeking a change in state law that would require juveniles to serve at least 35 years before they become parole eligible. The press conference is scheduled for Room 222 at the State House. - M. Murphy/SHNS

REPORT: INFLUX OF "DIRTY FUEL" THREATENS CLEAN ENERGY PROGRESS

Massachusetts, a state where policymakers have aggressively pursued clean energy strategies, is among 11 Northeast and mid-Atlantic states on the verge of increasing supplies of tar sands-derived gasoline, a plan that could erase recent gains in reducing transportation sector carbon pollution, according to a new report. The Natural Resources Defense Council report, released Thursday and co-sponsored locally by the Conservation Law Foundation, predicted a "flood of dirty fuel" from Canadian tar sands oil could squander "carbon savings" achieved to date under the state's Global Warming Solutions Act through tactics such as adoption of federal "clean cars" standards and investments in public transportation that reduce automobile usage. The report says tar sands-derived gas supplies in the 11 states would rise from less than 1 percent in 2012 to 11.5 percent of the total gasoline supply by 2020, due to "increased imports from Canadian refineries, fresh supplies of refined tar sands fuels from Gulf Coast refineries, and quantities from East Coast refineries that would obtain tar sands crude via rail and barge." In a statement, Sue Reid, Massachusetts director of the Conservation Law Foundation, said, "This report is an urgent wake-up call, one that Massachusetts must heed in order avoid wiping out recent gains in reducing transportation sector carbon pollution. Tar sands-derived gas poses a direct threat to the Commonwealth's transportation energy mix and our clean energy future." - M. Norton/SHNS

REPORT: HIGH CASELOADS COMPOUNDED FAILURES IN OLIVER CASE

High caseloads at the state office charged with monitoring the family of Jeremiah Oliver, the 5-year-old Fitchburg boy who is missing and feared dead, "provide a context rather than an excuse for the repeated failures" of employees at the Department of Children and Families, according to a report released Thursday morning by the Office of the Child Advocate. The office's investigation was conducted at the request of Gov. Deval Patrick, who has already received a report from the department on the Oliver case and who this week proposed a significant increase in funding for the department. The new report and the funding request were laid out within 24 hours of a hearing on Beacon Hill Thursday where House lawmakers planned to discuss the agency's operations. The OCA report found "high weighted caseloads" in the DCF North Central Area Office responsible for basic protective services involving the Oliver family and said the caseloads "likely compounded the professional failures" of three DCF workers who have since been fired. A department report on the Oliver case in December concluded the social worker assigned to Jeremiah Oliver had not visited him since April. The OCA said its investigation included a review of DCF records and other documents and interviews with agency, union, and law enforcement personnel. - M. Norton/SHNS