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From Issue Spot: A Glimpse Into the Judiciary Committee’s Agenda

As we mentioned in last week’s blog post, almost all of the BBA’s bills end up in the Judiciary Committee.  That’s because the Judiciary Committee historically considers all bills relating to crimes, sentencing, the judiciary, judicial salaries, parole, and other corrections issues.  The Judiciary Committee also gets a handful of proposals to change the Constitution each session. 

 This session, there are three new House appointees to the Judiciary Committee:  Representative Bruce Ayers, freshman Representative Claire Cronin, and Representative Jeffrey Roy.  The new senators on the Judiciary Committee include the Chairwoman Katherine Clark and Senator Will Brownsberger.  Of the seventeen members of the Judiciary Committee, nine are lawyers.  Other members of the committee include a small business owner, a community activist and a funeral director. 

With 771 bills already assigned to the Judiciary Committee there will probably be between fourteen and sixteen public hearings during the two-year session that started in January.  To put this number in perspective, the committee with the next largest number of bills currently before it, the Joint Committee on Public Service, currently has 390 bills.  The Joint Committee on Public Health currently has 349.  

One of the first public hearings the Judiciary Committee will schedule will pertain to matters relating to amending the Constitution.  The joint rules of the House and Senate mandate specific time frames for amending the constitution. Any such amendment filed by April 24, 2013 must receive the Judiciary Committee’s recommendation that same day…

Pending in the Judiciary Committee this session. . .

Public accommodations protections for transgender individuals – Building upon the success of last year’s transgender equality law there is a proposal before the Judiciary Committee that would grant transgender individuals access to sex segregated public facilities based on their own gender-identity. .

Changes to the wiretap statute .Both Judiciary Committee Chairs have co-sponsored the bill, but that does not mean this proposal won’t be without controversy or complication.  Changing the wiretap statute has long been a priority of the Attorney General’s Office and other law enforcement officials.  Those in support of the bill refer to it as an “update.”  Those that don’t necessarily endorse the bill see it as a “broad expansion.”  The list of crimes that will ultimately be included in the wiretap statute will constitute the crux of the debate. 

Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act- This uniform law has been adopted in all 49 states and its purpose is to provide a remedy for conflicts that occur under the current Massachusetts child custody jurisdiction law.  Under the UCCJEA, once a state has exercised jurisdiction over custody, that state has exclusive jurisdiction over potential changes in the judgment or order — providing a parent, the child, or someone acting as a parent remains in the original state.

Not pending in the Judiciary Committee this session. . .

Gun control bills – While the House referred a gun control bill to the Judiciary Committee, the Senate referred the same bill to the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security.  In the end, the House concurred with the Senate. So it looks like the bills dealing with changes to our gun laws will not be handled by the Judiciary Committee. 

 - Kathleen Joyce
Director of Government Relations
Boston Bar Association

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