House, Senate end bickering, sign budget deal
Bill bans bump stocks, provides $3m for gang initiative
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
DEVICES KNOWN AS BUMP STOCKS that were used in the Las Vegas shooting a month ago to turn ordinary rifles into automatic weapons would be banned in Massachusetts under a bill the Legislature sent to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk on Thursday after weeks of bickering between the House and Senate.
The ban on bump stocks was included in a budget deal reached between House and Senate lawmakers that includes more than $129.3 million in spending, including $3 million for a youth violence prevention program touted by House Ways and Means Chairman Jeffrey Sanchez and other lawmakers.
The bill would also give the Gaming Commission the authority to waive restrictions on casinos hiring people with criminal histories for jobs that don’t involve handling money on gaming room floors.
“In this budget, Massachusetts will once again be a leader in gun violence prevention by banning bump stocks. We also ensured that SSYI programs across the Commonwealth will continue to help our most at-risk youth,” Sanchez said in a statement, referring to the acronym for the youth violence prevention program.
The final bill would ban the ownership of bump stocks and trigger cranks, but there would be no exceptions for police trainers or collectors as the Senate had originally allowed. The limited ban on those two devices, however, was narrowed from the original House proposal that sought to ban any device that could increase a weapon’s rate of fire.
Possession of bump stocks would remain legal for 90 days after the bill is signed by the governor, but the Legislature opted against giving anyone who legally owns such a device time to sell it out of state.
Rep. David Linsky, a Natick Democrat who filed the initial bump stock amendment in the House, said Massachusetts would be the first state in the nation to ban the device. “I am confident this language will effectively ban bump stock devices, while protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners, and closing any loopholes that could be exploited by gun manufacturers,” Linsky said in a statement.
Both branches in October passed versions of the budget that is necessary for the state to close its book on the fiscal year than ended June 30, but a procedural spat and policy differences led to unusually public sniping back and forth before the two sides reached agreement Thursday.
The budget includes money to cover accrued costs for snow and ice removal from last winter, as well as additional spending for sheriffs, district attorneys, National Guard tuition reimbursements and other items.
Some money left unspent in fiscal 2017, such as $900,000 for the Department of Mental Health, will be carried over into fiscal 2018, and the bill includes a section that will enable the Baker administration to begin collecting data from employers on how many of their workers are enrolled in MassHealth so that a new assessment can be levied next year to help pay for Medicaid.
Lawmakers used to pass so-called closeout budgets in August or September but in recent years legislators have waited until long after their summer recesses to pass bills tying up fiscal loose ends.
“As I’ve said from the outset, it’s imperative we meet our fiscal obligations by closing out the books on fiscal year 2017 in a timely manner. I’m pleased we have finally resolved these issues. We can now turn our attention to funding for 2018 and the many worthwhile programs and services our residents rely upon,” Spilka said in a statement.
The Legislature approved a late fiscal 2018 budget in July but lawmakers often open the budget up for additions and amendments throughout the year.
One point of contention between the branches over the past couple weeks was funding for the youth violence prevention program known as Safe and Successful Youth.
Sanchez described the $4.7 million approved by the House as critical to communities like his Jamaica Plain neighborhood, where a 16-year-old was murdered Tuesday night in a hail of gunfire, but the Senate viewed the program as fiscal 2018 spending that could be considered at a later date.
On Boston Herald Radio Wednesday, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said the incident in Jamaica Plain was “like a shootout.”The lawmakers ultimately agreed to put an additional $3 million into the Safe and Successful Youth program.
Gov. Charlie Baker is in California on vacation until Monday, but his office has said Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito would be prepared to sign the bill in her capacity as acting governor once the Legislature finalizes it, and if the administration has no objections.