Mass. Senate Poised to Respond to Gov. Baker on Policing Reform

Baker sent a landmark bill imposing new accountability and oversight systems on police back to the Legislature with amendments on Dec. 10

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The Massachusetts Senate plans to vote Monday on a police reform and racial justice bill that Gov. Charlie Baker returned with amendments and a veto threat, though it remains unclear on which points -- if any -- lawmakers will concede.

Senate President Karen Spilka announced Monday afternoon that her chamber would advance the legislation later in the day, revealing little about how the proposal will look compared to what lawmakers originally approved or to the Republican governor's amendments.

"It is not enough to say that the lives of Black and brown people matter in this Commonwealth; we must turn words into action, and action into law," Spilka said in a statement. "The version of the bill we will be voting on today takes into account the priorities expressed by people of color, including the development of use-of-force standards and the limitation of facial recognition technology, while also striking a balance amongst all involved to ensure this landmark bill becomes law."

Massachusetts lawmakers finished their work on a compromise police reform bill Monday, filing an updated version of the landmark legislation that Democratic leaders praised as "one of the most comprehensive approaches to police reform and racial justice" in the country.

Baker sent a landmark bill imposing new accountability and oversight systems on police back to the Legislature with amendments on Dec. 10, seeking compromise but stressing that he opposed banning police from using facial recognition software to solve crimes and allowing police training to be developed by a civilian-controlled commission.

If Democratic legislative leaders want to push through those changes despite Baker's opposition, they may struggle: the conference committee report was accepted 28-12 in the Senate, narrowly surpassing a veto-proof majority, and 92-67 in the House, which falls short of that margin.

Rep. Russell Holmes, a Mattapan Democrat, was at the State House on Monday working, he hoped, to get a bill passed and signed before Christmas.

He said the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus met with Baker last week and discussed a middle ground on facial recognition software and police training that he hoped to see reflected in the final bill that emerges in the Senate.

The Senate has kept its session open all afternoon Monday, and it is not clear what time it will return to take a vote on the bill.

The House, where a seismic leadership handoff from House Speaker Robert DeLeo could take place this week, adjourned until a planned Tuesday formal session.

Copyright State House News Service
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