DeLeo uncertain of Patrick’s sentencing bill plan

Legislature awaits governor's move following rejection of amendments


With the possibility that Gov. Deval Patrick could quietly kill habitual offender legislation by vetoing it after formal sessions end for the year at midnight tonight, House Speaker Robert DeLeo on Tuesday morning said he has not spoken with the governor since the House and Senate rejected his judicial discretion amendment.

DeLeo said he had no insight into whether Patrick will sign the bill, veto it in time for the Legislature to act, or hang on to the bill until after formal sessions end at midnight.

“As a matter of fact what I did this morning is I sent him a note wishing him a happy birthday. I think today’s his birthday,” DeLeo told the News Service. Patrick, who shares a birthday with former Gov. William Weld, turns 56 on Tuesday.

The House and Senate on Monday easily rejected the governor’s amendment that would have given judges the authority to grant parole after serving two-thirds of a maximum sentence to three-time felons convicted under the habitual offender law.

Patrick said on Monday those instances would be “rare,” and that his amendment would make a good bill better. But Patrick declined during his last availability with the press to disclose his plans for the bill if the amendment was rejected.

The governor’s public schedule for Tuesday includes two events. He planned to attend the 11 a.m. funeral for Westfield police officer Jose Torres and at 2:15 p.m. to join Boston Mayor Thomas Menino at Youth Options Unlimited in Roxbury to discuss a youth initiative.

The success or failure of the sentencing reform bill will likely be an election year issue for lawmakers running to keep their seats. The drama over the bill has similarities to the final days of the formal sessions in 2010, when Patrick and legislative leaders could not agree on a casino bill and it died.

DeLeo, who was preparing to start a Democratic caucus before the House convened for its final formal session of 2012, said he was hopeful the Legislature could complete the bulk of its work before midnight, which includes passage of a 350-page health care cost containment bill that members were getting briefed on in the House and Senate during pre-session caucuses.

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Matt Murphy

State House News Service
A $1.4 billion transportation borrowing bill laden with earmarks also still hasn’t been resolved, but DeLeo said he was confident it would get done.

Another bill in conference reforming the state’s court-ordered child services system may not be among the many bills to reach Patrick’s desk Tuesday.

“I’m not sure we’re going to be able to complete that today. From what I hear from Chairman Dempsey, that doesn’t look too promising, but I think with something like that which has such universal support I think it’s something we could do in informal session,” DeLeo said.