Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Republican Lawmakers Make Melissa’s Bill 2011 Legislative Priority

BOSTON—Republican lawmakers, led by Minority Whip Brad Hill (R-Ipswich) today called on their colleagues to join with them in making “Melissa’s Bill” a 2011 legislative priority.

“Melissa’s Bill” was filed in the memory of Melissa Gosule, a then-27-year-old teacher who was murdered in 1999 by a repeat offender who had served less than two years in jail for a combined 27 criminal convictions.

“Melissa’s Bill” was refiled for multiple session, most recently in January of 2009 and has been stuck in the Judiciary Committee since March of the same year.

If passed into law, repeat, violent offenders would be kept where they belong - behind bars.

In the wake of the tragic shooting death of a Woburn Police Officer John Maguire by a career criminal, the Republican Caucus is hoping there will be an appetite to pass this critical piece of legislation early in the new legislative session.

“A priority of the Legislature should be to ensure the safety of all the citizens of the Commonwealth from dangerous, habitual offenders and this legislation would do just that,” said Representative Hill, the sponsor of “Melissa’s Bill.”

“We in the Republican Caucus are happy to take the lead on this issue, however we hope our colleagues will join us in our effort to keep every citizen of the Commonwealth safe,” said House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr.

Among the components of “Melissa’s Bill” include:

 Expands the habitual offender statute to better target the most dangerous repeat offenders, stating that the maximum punishment available by law shall be imposed for either a defendant’s third Superior Court felony conviction or a third conviction of a felony punishable by more than 10 years in prison.

 Removes parole eligibility for those repeat offenders convicted under “Melissa’s Law.”

 Requires revocations and imposition of the suspended sentence when a preponderance of the evidence establishes that the probationer committed a felony while on probation. Currently, there is no such requirement.

 Removes loophole by specifically stating that state and federal convictions apply to the habitual offender statute. Currently, federal convictions are not included in the habitual offender statute.

 Authorizes judges to impose conditions of release to make clear that sentences on new crimes committed during the pendency of a case shall run consecutively, eliminating the ability of defendants to agree to “package deals” and receive concurrent sentences for crimes committed while they are out on bail.