The New Year began with a flurry of activity on Beacon Hill. On
Jan. 7, the Senate elected Sen. Stanley C. Rosenberg (D-Amherst) as
its new president, while the House of Representatives re-elected
Rep. Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop) as the speaker of the house. On
Jan. 8, Charles D. Baker was sworn in as governor of the
commonwealth of Massachusetts. By the legislative filing deadline
on Jan. 16, a total of 5,333 bills had been filed for consideration
during this session.
Although only a fraction of those bills will become law, the joint
standing committees appointed by House and Senate leaders are
tasked with holding public hearings on all of those bills. The
Judiciary Committee is most certainly one of the busiest committees
and deals with the vast majority of bills impacting the practice of
law and access to justice. Last session the Judiciary Committee
processed around 800 bills, including last year's successful
passage of voir dire and the Uniform Adult Guardianship
Protection Procedures Jurisdiction Act.
Among the issues sure to surface before the Judiciary Committee
this session is compensation increases for criminal justice
attorneys, which have long been supported by the Massachusetts Bar
Association, most recently in the report "Doing Right by Those Who
Labor for Justice." A commission appointed by former Gov. Deval L.
Patrick following the MBA's report, also recommended increases. MBA
President Marsha Kazarosian served on that commission.
Mandatory minimum sentences are sure to be on the radar this
session. Baker has previously indicated his support for the repeal
of mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.
Rosenberg has discussed the need to provide treatment over
incarceration for substance and mental health problems opening the
door for discussion of the repeal of mandatory minimums, which is
supported by the MBA.
Sen. William Brownsberger (D-Belmont) was reappointed by Rosenberg
to helm the Judiciary Committee on the Senate side. This will be
Brownsberger's first full session as chair. He was appointed last
spring when then-Chairwoman Katherine Clark was elected to the U.S.
House of Representatives.
At press time, the House had not appointed a chair. Following
longtime Chairman Eugene L. O'Flaherty's move to the administration
of Mayor Martin J. Walsh, where he serves as corporation counsel,
the House side had been led by Vice Chairman Christopher Markey
Over the coming months the Judiciary Committee, as well as the
other joint standing committees, will begin holding public hearings
on the over 5,000 bills currently pending. The Legislature operates
in a biennial session. Formal sessions for the first part of the
session will conclude on Nov. 19, 2015. Everything pending at that
time will carry over to the next year, with formal sessions
concluding for the second part of the session on July 1, 2016.