In a rare open conference committee Thursday, Senate negotiators pushed House counterparts to agree to mandatory minimum sentencing reforms as part of a sweeping criminal justice policy bill. Lead House conferee Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty gave little ground, calling the criminal offender record information (CORI) system changes that cleared both branches in various forms the House’s top priority in the bill. “I hope that you hear from us that the CORI part of this is very important and we’d like to get something done before the end of the session,” O’Flaherty said, addressing Sen. Cynthia Creem, the lead Senate conferee, who is facing a primary challenge this fall. Lobbyists, activists and a reporter were allowed into the meeting, an uncommon measure in recent years as conference committees have routinely voted their own privacy as they convened. “It’s a big issue,” Senate conferee Steven Tolman told the panel. “The House didn’t address it.” Tolman called the Senate sentencing plan, which allows some non-violent drug offenders to qualify for parole after serving two-thirds of their sentences, a way to combat what he called an epidemic of drug addiction because, he said, it enables convicts to rejoin society in productive fashion. When Tolman told O’Flaherty that the latter’s role as a criminal defense attorney allowed him to understand the issue, O’Flaherty pointed out that he also practiced probate law. Rep. Christopher Speranzo said he wanted more data about the state’s prison population. With both chambers in formal sessions during the meeting, and roll calls pending, the group broke up after less than an hour, planning to meet again next week. 6:42 P.M.
Behind the Scene with Hector Montalvo
Blog on letters I have sent to work on solving some of the issues