STATE CAPITOL BRIEFS - EVENING EDITION - WEDNESDAY, JULY 16, 2014

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

HOUSE PASSES BILL TO REFORM HOUSING AUTHORITIES

Legislation reforming housing authorities keeps local control intact and will improve living conditions for residents by setting maintenance benchmarks, Rep. Kevin Honan told House colleagues Wednesday before the bill passed 144 to 4. After former Chelsea Housing Authority head Michael McLaughlin was found inflating his salary, lawmakers and Gov. Deval Patrick called for reforms at housing authorities. Patrick filed a bill (H 44) in January 2013, but lawmakers balked at Patrick's proposal to consolidate the housing authorities into six regional agencies. They did not like the idea of the state taking over the authorities they say are working efficiently. "It was pretty clear action needed to be taken," Honan said on the House floor Wednesday. But he called Patrick's bill "Draconian in style." During hearings held around the state, lawmakers heard tenants say they wanted consistent maintenance. Approximately 70 percent of tenants living in housing authorities are elderly or disabled, according to Honan. "It is a vulnerable population," he said. The legislation that cleared the House (H 4306) will increase accountability and transparency; provide protection for residents and sets benchmarks for local housing authorities on maintenance.


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According to Honan, the bill also gives greater authority to the Department of Housing and Community Development when it is determined a housing director needs to be removed from their position. The bill requires an annual audit, and training for board members. Reps. Christopher Fallon (D-Malden) Peter Durant (R-Spencer), Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton), Matthew Beaton (R-Shrewsbury) voted against the bill. - C. Quinn/SHNS

HOUSE AND SENATE APPROVE BCEC EXPANSION, JUVENILE SENTENCING COMPROMISES

Legislation creating a three-tier sentencing structure for juveniles convicted of first degree murder, and a bill authorizing a $1 billion expansion of the Boston Convention Center and Exhibition Center are one step closer to the governor's desk. House and Senate lawmakers on Wednesday voted to accept conference committee reports resolving the differences between the two branches on the two bills. The bills still need final enactment votes. Rep. Christopher Markey, a Democrat from Dartmouth, said the sentencing bill (H 4307) leaves discretion for judges to make juveniles convicted of first degree murder eligible for parole after serving 20 to 30 years of a sentence. Rep. Benjamin Swan, a Democrat from Springfield, argued against the bill's mandatory minimum parole eligibilities because he said it "disregards" the rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court and the state Supreme Judicial Court. Recent court rulings said lifetime sentences without the possibility of parole violated juveniles constitutional rights. Sen. James Eldridge (D-Acton) said the bill goes "too far" and is "too harsh." The House and Senate also accepted compromise legislation to authorize borrowing for the expansion of the Boston Center Convention and Exhibition Center on the South Boston waterfront. Rep. Peter Kocot (D-Northampton) said the bill (H 4308) decreased the bond authorization by roughly $100 million to $1 billion, and cut the borrowing term to 30 years to save money on interest. Kocot said the expansion will provide thousands of new jobs, hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue, and bring tourists to Massachusetts. - C. Quinn/SHNS

PROBATION JURY BEGINS SECOND DAY OF DELIBERATIONS THURSDAY

The second day of jury deliberations in the probation trial begins Thursday morning. The seven men and five women are determining whether any crimes were committed by former Probation Commissioner John O'Brien and two of his former deputies, Elizabeth Tavares and William Burke III, accused of rigging the probation hiring process. After 10 weeks of testimony, deliberations began Wednesday at 9:17 a.m. and ran until about 5 p.m. when jurors exited the Moakley Courthouse. The jurors have requested a list of witnesses and a transcript of the testimony of Fran Wall, a former probation official testifying under immunity who said he was tasked with rigging the hiring process within the department. - A. Metzger/SHNS