With police bill, compromise was the key

MAJOR POLICE REFORM is all but a done deal on Beacon Hill. The surest sign that the bill has been fully squeezed through the legislative wringer? No one is happy with it. 

That, of course, is an exaggeration. Indeed, it’s on its way into the books precisely because enough people were happy enough with it. But the give and take involved in getting Gov. Charlie Baker on board with the Legislature’s bill meant giving up some pieces that the strongest reform advocates wanted. Meanwhile, police unions that were not too keen on changing the status quo to begin with seem resigned to the bill now becoming law.

Baker gained tremendous leverage when the House approved the bill earlier this month 92-67 — less than the two-thirds margin that would be needed to override a gubernatorial veto.  

Under terms of the bill, all police officers in the state will have to be certified by a state panel and could be stripped of their ability to work in law enforcement for a range of offenses. 

The biggest changes sought by Baker that were accepted in the bill were to have police training overseen by the state executive office of public safety, not a civilian-controlled commission, and to grant wider authorization for the use of facial recognition software. The final bill also loosens the restrictions in the version first passed by the House and Senate on the use of no-knock warrants to enter dwellings. 

In a floor speech on Monday as the Senate approved the bill with Baker’s amendments, Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, who was part of the House-Senate conference committee that drafted the bill both chambers passed three weeks ago, called it “heartbreaking” to see some elements in that version given up to satisfy the governor. 

Boston activist Monica Cannon-Grant told the Globe she was mainly frustrated that that the bill did not do away altogether with “qualified immunity,” which protects officers from civil liability for alleged misconduct. “Every time that there was an update, something else was being watered down,” Cannon-Grant said. “Now you expect us to be happy, with nothing?”

The Globe said some police unions, which had lobbied heavily against the bill, offered “muted acceptance” of the final version. 

It was left to Rep. Russell Holmes, who is waging a quixotic bid for House speaker, to offer the most grounded — and succinct — assessment of the politics of the moment. 

The Mattapan lawmaker, who has long pushed for a system of police certification and was part of early efforts by the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus to see a reform bill pass this year, said it was important to seize on the positive change that was possible under the current political realities on Beacon Hill, even if further reforms are warranted. 

“I have to take a win when I see it,” he said

MICHAEL JONAS

FROM COMMONWEALTH

Gov. Charlie Baker tightens COVID-19 restrictions starting the day after Christmas and ending two weeks later. His measures include new gathering restrictions and lower limits on how many people can enter venues such as restaurants, stores, and houses of worship.

Lawmakers send police reform and abortion measures to the governor, and get set to work on newly released health care legislation focused on telehealth. The governor has said he will sign the police reform bill now that it has been amended to suit him, while refusing to say what he will do with the abortion measure.

 

FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

BEACON HILL

A legislative conference committee reached an agreement on a bill setting forth the terms for use of telehealth and insurance reimbursement for the services. (Boston Globe)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

A Southboro man is seeking documents that he says will show theft by the town’s recreation department. (Telegram & Gazette)

Hudson selectmen are considering eliminating a residency requirement for a town job to attract a wider pool of candidates. (MetroWest Daily News)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

North Shore hospitals, already at least 90 percent capacity, fear a post-holiday COVID-19 surge. (The Salem News) The DCU Worcester field hospital has treated and discharged 100 coronavirus patients. (MassLive

COVID-19 testing sites are seeing huge demand because people want to test negative before getting together with family over Christmas. (Telegram & Gazette)

An attorney for Vanessa Lauziere, the former chief nursing officer at Holyoke Soldiers’ Home said the much-maligned decision to combine two dementia units amid the COVID-19 outbreak was a joint effort by clinical staff who were out of other options. (MassLive) A Holyoke Soldiers’ Home veteran who has been at Holyoke Medical Center since April has died after testing positive for COVID-19, the first COVID death since June of a veteran who had been living at the home. (MassLive)

UMass Memorial Health Care and Harrington Health Care System are seeking to merge, with UMass becoming the parent company to Harrington. (MassLive)

More than 600 members of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts are in quarantine, the highest number since the pandemic started. (Boston Herald

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

President Trump threatens to block a COVID relief bill unless some major changes are made. (NPR)

Trump grants a slew of pardons, including to former Republican members of Congress and private contractors convicted of killing unarmed Iraqi civilians. (NPR)

President-elect Biden will nominate Connecticut’s state education commissioner, Miguel Cardona, a former teacher and school principal, to be education secretary, fulfilling his promise to put someone with classroom experience in the post. (Politico)

Gov. Gavin Newsom selected Alex Padilla, California’s secretary of state, to fill the US Senate seat being vacated by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. (New York Times

ELECTIONS

Jesse Mermell, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress earlier this year, details the financial challenges she faced and said these obstacles need to be removed so a more diverse set of people can run for office. (Data for Progress)

Candidates are lining up to run for House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s Winthrop-based seat — though he has yet to resign or indicate when he will. (Boston Herald

President Trump’s disregard for democratic norms and the truth is now to be expected, but Vice President Pence, who was supposed to be his stable and tempered counterweight, should concede the election, says a Globe editorial. Pence will face a very concrete moment of reckoning on January 6, when he presides over a joint session of Congress that will consider the electoral vote tallies submitted from the states. (Washington Post)  

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The Springfield branch of the US Postal Service is overwhelmed, so many people won’t be getting their Christmas gifts in time. (MassLive)

Housing prices in Greater Boston continue to soar, with the median price of a single-family house sold in November reaching $700,000. (Boston Globe

The owner of a soon to open Brockton marijuana store teaches others how to get a start in the business. (The Enterprise) 

EDUCATION

A majority of Fall River and Somerset students won’t be heading back into their classrooms after the holiday school break. (Herald News)

ARTS/CULTURE

Berkshire County cultural venues cheer the $15 billion in aid included in the $900 billion coronavirus relief package.

A former Cape Cod Times reporter explains her relationship with notorious ‘Pharma Bro’ Martin Shkreli. (USA Today) 

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A biomass plant in the Springfield area may finally get built next year using new subsidies provided by the state. Critics say burning wood to generate electricity is bad for the environment. (WBUR)

A measure named after Leonel Rondon, who was killed in the Merrimack Valley gas explosions, to require monitors to supervise all natural gas work passes in Congress. (Eagle-Tribune)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Suffolk County DA Rachael Rollins is getting behind efforts to free Robert Foxworth, who has maintained for decades that he was wrongfully convicted of murder in a 1992 killing. (Boston Globe

Two men, from Lawrence and Methuen, are arrested for using stolen identities to obtain small business disaster loans. (Eagle-Tribune)

A part-time Shrewsbury firefighter resigns after being caught in a sting by a group that targets online predators trying to solicit sex from someone posting as a 14-year-old girl. (MassLive)

MEDIA

Alison King of NBC10 hosts her annual holiday sing with Massachusetts pols — remotely, of course. It’s very good.