The Codcast: Warren, Brownsberger go at it on criminal justice bill

The sweeping criminal justice bill that Gov. Charlie Baker signed earlier this month received widespread, but not universal, praise as a welcome turn away from the tough-on-crime policies of the 1980s and ‘90s.

One notable dissenting voice was that of Setti Warren, the former Newton mayor who is now one of three Democrats vying to challenge Baker in the November election. Warren said there was lots that he liked in the bill, which pulled back sanctions in all sorts of areas, including eliminating or ratcheting back several mandatory minimum drugs sentences. But he denounced the inclusion in the bill of new mandatory minimum sentences related to the synthetic opioids Fentanyl and Carfentanil and said he would have vetoed the legislation because of them.

Sen. Will Brownsberger, the lead Senate author of the bill, called Warren’s position “uninformed,” and said it prompted him to endorse Jay Gonzalez, one of Warren’s rivals in the Democratic primary for governor.

Warren and Brownsberger sat down together to discuss their differences in this week’s Codcast. The crux of the debate came down to finding the right balance between sticking with one’s principles and the need for compromise to move things forward.

“This is not something we started with in our bill,” Brownsberger said, referring to the Senate version of criminal justice legislation, which did not include the new mandatory minimums. He said he would not have included them in the final bill, either, had it been entirely up to him. But Brownsberger said there was support for the new sanctions in both the House and Senate, and he called the final bill a “compromise product” that has way more provisions that will reduce incarceration than elements that could increase it.

Warren, who maintains the new sanctions were included because Baker wanted them, said it makes no sense to enact new drug mandatory sentences at a time when we are finally coming to terms with their devastating effects. “I know that mandatory minimums are discriminatory, I know that they don’t reduce crime, and I know that they don’t reduce addiction,” he said. Warren pointed to data showing that 73 percent of those incarcerated in the state under mandatory minimum sentences are black and Latino.

Mandatory minimums “hurt communities of color,” said Warren, and as an African-American man whose father was arrested in civil rights sit-ins in the 1960s, he said his opposition to them is “a matter of principle.”

Many members of the Legislature have “exactly the same principles,” said Brownsberger, yet they voted for the bill, including every black and Latino lawmaker.

Things got a little testy at one point when, despite Warren saying clearly that he opposed all mandatory minimum sentences, Brownsberger proceeded to pepper him with questions about a list of crimes for which there are currently mandatories, asking him in each case if he opposes mandatory sentences. Warren said he did. (His campaign also pointed out that Brownsberger’s candidate for governor, Jay Gonzalez, has said he favors elimination of mandatory minimum sentences for all crimes except first-degree murder.)

Brownsberger said the act of compromise means being willing to compromise one’s principles. Warren didn’t disagree, and said, for example, that he wished the final bill had included a provision raising the age for juvenile court jurisdiction to include 18-year-olds; the candidate said he would have signed the measure without it — as long it didn’t include new mandatory sentences. (Warren never really answered why, if he were governor, he wouldn’t have returned the bill with amendments striking the mandatories rather than vetoing the whole bill entirely.)

They found common ground on one point.

Warren said it’s important to “draw a line in the sand” and that for him that means opposing the introduction of any new mandatory minimum sentences. “We respectfully disagree,” he said to Brownsberger.

“We do,” replied the Belmont lawmaker.

MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

Rep. James Miceli of Wilmington collapsed and died at a Little League game over the weekend. The 83-year-old lawmaker was the second-longest serving member of the Legislature. (State House News)

Reps. William Pignatelli and John Barrett 3d will seek a 10 percent budget increase for the regional transportation authorities in the House budget. (Berkshire Eagle)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Demolition of the Notre Dame des Canadiens church in Worcester is set to begin this week. (Telegram & Gazette)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Margery Eagan says Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas should be impeached. (Boston Globe)

ELECTIONS

Mayor Marty Walsh endorsed Rep. Michael Capuano in his Democratic primary showdown against City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, the first minority woman to serve on the council. Walsh said there needs to be more women and minority members of Congress — but suggested that focus should happen in other, more conservative states. (Boston Globe)

Peter Lucas, who seems to have come full circle and landed back at the Herald as a columnist after penning pieces for the Lowell Sun for many years, goes to bat for Beth Lindstrom in her Republican bid for Senate. (Boston Herald)

Republican state Rep. Keiko Orrall, who is challenging state Treasurer Deb Goldberg, says she’s undecided on the November ballot question that would repeal the transgender rights law Gov. Charlie Baker signed two years ago. Orrall voted against the measure in the Legislature. (Boston Herald)

Maine gets ready for ranked-choice voting, a new election system that backers say will better capture the will of voters but which could also lead to complicated legal challenges to the election results. (Boston Globe)

By failing to secure enough support at a state Republican convention, Mitt Romney will not be able to skip past a primary in his bid for US Senate in Utah and now must faceoff against a state rep named Kennedy. (Boston Herald)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The Globe plays prominently on its front-page a feature about the showdown of two Boston businessmen — one of whom is Globe owner John Henry — who own rival European soccer teams that will face each other tomorrow in the semifinals of a huge tournament there.

Lobster prices are soaring. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

Sheldon Berman, the superintendent of the Andover schools, apologizes for inadvertently sending a confidential memo regarding the suspended volleyball coach to a reporter. (Eagle-Tribune)

Herald education reporter Kathleen McKiernan talks to 17-year-old Jayden Aguiar, who says he’s found acceptance among staff and fellow students at Charlestown High School after coming out as transgender.

Harvard research and teaching assistants vote to join the United Auto Workers union. (WBUR)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Rob Restuccia and Andrew Dreyfus take stock 30 years after passage of the state’s universal health care law. (CommonWealth)

TRANSPORTATION

Jim Aloisi, the former secretary of transportation and TransitMatters member, said it’s time to reconsider the current approach to South Coast Rail. (CommonWealth)

Douglas McGarrah, a partner at Foley Hoag, said Massachusetts is at a climate and transportation crossroads. (CommonWealth)

Jody Rose, Tim Brennan, and Chris Dempsey say Massachusetts needs a RGGI for transportation. (CommonWealth)

T notes: Gov. Charlie Baker shows some confusion on Silver Line ramp access in the Seaport District. (CommonWealth)

Renee Loth said a boardwalk extending out over the Charles River could be a part of a sensible redesign of the Massachusetts Turnpike redevelopment project now slated for Allston. (Boston Globe)

Determined to clamp down on dangerous cellphone use, West Bridgewater police issued 105 citations over four days last week for distracted driving. (The Enterprise)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

With the death of the Northern Pass power line project through New Hampshire, attention — and lots of local debate — now centers on Maine’s pristine North Woods, which may become the preferred path for a hydropower line to deliver energy from Quebec to Massachusetts. (Boston Globe)

A Globe editorial, citing Beacon Hill folly, goes all in for new natural gas pipeline infrastructure.

A pod of about 30 endangered North Atlantic right whales were visible over the weekend about a mile offshore in Marshfield. (Patriot Ledger)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan asks the Supreme Judicial Court to ban ICE detentions at courthouses. (Lowell Sun)

MEDIA

News of the suspension of Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen, prompted by questions about his Boston Marathon bombing reporting raised by sports talk radio station WEEI, ricochets through the media, with Britain’s Daily Mail among the outlets picking up the story. Here’s Emily Rooney’s take. (WGBH)

Fox News host Sean Hannity has a real estate empire that came to light after the disclosure that he had been a client of former Donald Trump attorney Michael Cohen. (The Guardian)