Chris Lisinski and Sam Doran
Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday afternoon spiked a prison and jail construction moratorium section from the nearly $5.2 billion general government bond bill, signing the majority of the bill into law along with nine other measures.
Baker struck the section of the bill that would have halted expansion of the prison and jail footprint in Massachusetts for the next half-decade. Lawmakers agreed in the borrowing bill to order a five-year moratorium that prohibits any state or public agency from studying, planning, designing, acquiring, leasing, constructing or searching for sites for new correctional facilities. The legislation also barred agencies from expanding, converting, renovating or activating an already-built facility — including those that are dormant — to push inmate capacity beyond current levels, except in cases to support movement of inmates from a closing location. But Baker, whose administration has explored the concept of constructing a new women’s prison in Norfolk, spiked the moratorium from the bill, flexing his veto authority while signing off on most of the borrowing in the bill.
Public Safety and Security Secretary Terrence Reidy and Department of Correction Commissioner Carol Mici wrote in a June 3 letter to senators that a temporary ban “would restrict the Department’s ability to maximize operational efficiencies, address environmental hazards in aged facilities, and meet the evolving demands of the inmate population.”
Because lawmakers waited until July 26 to send Baker a final version of the legislation — just five days before both branches shifted into informal-only mode, where a single objection can stall any action — top Democrats left themselves no time to deploy their supermajority numbers in both chambers and override Baker’s veto. Baker also struck a line item (1100-2517) from the borrowing bill that contained $30 million for “a grant program for municipal or regional government entities to promote equitable participation in public meetings through information technology upgrades, acquisitions and installations that allow residents to participate in person or through remote technology.”
Among the other bills Baker signed Wednesday are the soldiers’ home reform bill, a bill dealing with first responders photographing crime victims, and a measure to crack down on poaching in the Bay State. Here’s the full list of bills the governor acted on Wednesday afternoon, from the secretary of state’s Regulations Division:
H 5065 financing the general governmental infrastructure of the Commonwealth (GGBB)
H 5130 relative to a purchase option on a University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth leased facility in New Bedford
H 5048 relative to a certain parcel of land in the town of Townsend
H 4250 authorizing the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority to release easements upon certain real property in the town of Canton
H 5106 relative to the governance, structure and care of veterans at the Commonwealth’s veterans’ homes
H 4442 further regulating the enforcement of illegal hunting practices
H 1917 taking or transmitting images of crime victims by first responders
H 4338 relative to regular compensation for certain retirees and active retirement system members
H 5159 authorizing the commissioner of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance to convey a certain parcel in the Roxbury section of the city of Boston
H 901 protecting research animals