STATE CAPITOL BRIEFS - MORNING EDITION - THURSDAY, JULY 24, 2014

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

MURRAY: ABORTIONS "FEW AND FAR BETWEEN" AT CLINICS

Defending legislation aimed at protecting individuals entering and leaving reproductive health clinics, Senate President Therese Murray said the proposal only calls for individuals to be dispersed if they accost someone else and took issue with the description of clinics as abortion clinics. During a brief interview, Murray was introduced Thursday morning by a WATD-FM host as a "loud supporter of abortion rights" and asked her thoughts on legislation that has now cleared both branches and is intended to replace the 2007 law establishing a 35-foot buffer zone outside clinics, which was unanimously struck down in late June by the Supreme Court. "It's not a buffer zone," Murray said of the proposal, which the House approved on Wednesday. "It's a dispersal area and you only get dispersed if you accost somebody so I think it falls within the civil rights of everyone on both sides of this issue." Murray also appeared to take issue with the host's use of the word abortion while introducing his question. "These are not abortion areas," the Plymouth Democrat said. "You can get abortion services there. They're few and far between. These are mostly reproductive health clinics for poor women who need to access health care." For the record, the host never described the clinics as abortion clinics.


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Many opponents of the buffer zone law and its proposed successor oppose abortion and describe themselves as pro-life while many supporters of the law and the clinic access bill favor giving women the choice to make reproductive health decisions, including whether to have abortions. Some opponents of the clinic access bill say it is unconstitutional and will face a legal challenge. - M. Norton/SHNS

LOTTERY PROFITS BEAT ESTIMATES BY $34 MILLION

The Massachusetts Lottery posted record sales in the fiscal year that just ended and nearly broke its two-year-old record for profits. Lottery officials Thursday morning reported $4.86 billion in transactions in fiscal 2014 and $971 million in profits, about $34 million than initially forecast for the state budget. Lottery profits are delivered to cities and towns to finance municipal government operations. In fiscal 2012, Lottery profits totaled $983 million. According to the Lottery, an agency run by Treasurer Steven Grossman, fiscal 2014 sales were up nearly 10 percent compared to fiscal 2011 and profits over that period are up 9.5 percent, in part due to a reduction in full-time employees at the agency, accomplished through attrition, from 406 to 394. In fiscal 2014, 72.3 percent of all revenue was returned to players in the form of winnings, the highest percentage of any Lottery in the U.S. Lottery officials credited the introduction in April of the agency's first $30 instant ticket with boosting sales, noting gross sales of all Lottery products were up 5.6 percent over the first three weeks of the new fiscal year. - M. Norton/SHNS

IN TREASURER'S RACE, CONROY TARGETS FINEGOLD GUN VOTE

A week after their first debate during which the Democrats running for treasurer sparred over their blue-collar credentials, Rep. Thomas Conroy is striking out against Sen. Barry Finegold over the controversial issue of discretion for police chiefs to issue rifle and shotgun licenses. Finegold voted for an amendment during the Senate gun bill debate to strip discretion from the House bill. "It is very disturbing and short-sighted that a majority of state senators, including Sen. Barry Finegold, my opponent in the Democratic primary for Treasurer, caved in to pressure from the local chapter of the NRA and rescinded a crucial and common-sense provision in the gun reform bill that enables police chiefs to exercise discretion in awarding firearm identification cards," Conroy said in a statement on Thursday, throwing one of the first punches in the down-ballot treasurer's race. Conroy voted for the House bill that would give police chiefs the same discretion they have when deciding to award handgun permits, and said gun violence will be an issue for the next treasurer, who oversees state spending, because of the costs associated with public safety, health care and the judicial system. "We need leadership that will not bend to political pressure, but stands strong and with conviction, based upon core values and basic principles. This is the type of leader I'll be as Treasurer," Conroy said. Finegold on Wednesday signed a letter written by Sen. Michael Barrett to the six conferees negotiating a final gun bill recommending compromise language that puts narrower discretion into the bill. The six senators behind the letter suggested the House language was too broad, but said they support giving police chiefs flexibility to issue firearm identification cards for sporting rifles and shotguns. - M. Murphy/SHNS

HOUSE APPROVES BILL BARRING POLICE FROM SHARING PHOTOS OF VICTIMS

Legislation prohibiting first responders from taking and distributing photos of crime victims outside the course of their duties cleared the House Wednesday. The bill filed by Rep. Joe Wagner, a Chicopee Democrat, includes punishment of up to a year's imprisonment or up to a $2,000 fine for police, firefighters and other emergency responders who improperly distribute photos of victims. First responders are allowed to take and distribute photos of victims in the course of their duties or with the victim's consent, according to the bill. In 2011, a Chicopee police officer reportedly took photos of the crime scene where 20-year-old Amanda Plasse was found murdered, and police later distributed the cell phone photos, according to local media reports. The incident sparked investigations and criticism. Wagner's bill (H 4040) was passed on a voice vote, and would need to clear the Senate before becoming law. - A. Metzger/SHNS

HOUSE-SENATE NEGOTIATORS STILL WEIGHING MAJOR BILLS

Five teams of House and Senate negotiators are working on crafting compromises for gun violence prevention (H 4285/S 2284), economic development and job creation (H 4181/S 2241), environmental and energy program investments (H 4150/S 2263), long-term spending on information technology (H 3370/S 2230), and strengthening domestic violence laws (S 1897/H 4037). On Wednesday, the six negotiators working on mercury thermostat recycling filed a compromise. The Senate accepted the conference committee report, and the compromise bill (S 2303) now awaits action in the House. The Senate on Thursday plans to consider legislation overhauling local housing authorities. The House plans an informal session but House members before leaving Wednesday's session were told to be prepared for formal sessions next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, which is the last day under legislative rules for formal sessions during the 2013-2014 session. - G. Dumcius/SHNS

FEDS BRIEF REPUBLICANS ON BORDER-CROSSING CHILDREN

Federal and state officials met with Republicans Thursday morning to discuss the possibility of Massachusetts hosting immigrant children who have illegally crossed the U.S. southern border unaccompanied by adults. Thousands of children trying to escape their own countries have found their way over the border. Last week, the Obama administration asked governors around the nation to consider temporarily hosting the children. Gov. Deval Patrick offered to up take up to 1,000 children for four months, housing them at either the Joint Base Cape Cod in Bourne or Westover Air Base in Chicopee. James Brown, the acting deputy field office director of the U.S. Department of Human Services/ Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), met with House Minority Leader Bradley Jones (R-North Reading) and other Republican leaders to brief them on the state's involvement. Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz, Lynn Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, and the chairman of the Bourne board of selectman attended the meeting. Bourne officials have expressed opposition to the idea. [Developing] - C. Quinn/SHNS