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(UPDATED) Patrick amends crime bill

Just a few minutes ago, Gov. Deval Patrick's Twitter account sent out this news: "Filed an amendment to crime bill - single change would significantly improve bill we all want & worked hard to get."

It confirms what one of the lead negotiators of the crime bill had predicted over a week ago. Sen. Cynthia Creem (D-Newton) said on the floor of the Senate, before her colleagues voted to pass the bill, that Patrick will send the bill back to legislators with amendments:

The bill's approach on habitual offenders lacked "safety valve" options available in many "red states" that allow judges to grant parole to people convicted under habitual offender laws, Creem said.

Creem also made a prediction. "I know the governor will make amendments because he publicly told us he wouldn't vote for a bill that didn't have a safety valve," she said.

The move puts the legislation back in the hands of lawmakers, who are juggling bills as they barrel towards the end of formal sessions on July 31.

UPDATE: Excerpted from Patrick's Facebook wall:

As you know, there is much I support in this bill. The bill includes a new habitual offender provision designed to ensure that the most serious and dangerous repeat offenders remain safely behind bars. It also includes significant and retroactive reductions in the minimum mandatory time required for certain non-violent drug crimes. The bill also reduces from 1,000 to 300 feet the distance required to apply the enhanced penalties for drug offenses occurring in the vicinity of a school. The conferees worked hard on this bill and it shows. It is to a great degree balanced and responsible.

There is one element that I believe cannot and should not wait until next session. I believe the new habitual offender law should include limited judicial discretion to ensure that this expansion of mandatory sentencing does not have unjust consequences. None of us is wise or prescient enough to foresee each and every circumstance in which the new habitual offender provisions may apply. The sentencing judge, who has observed all the witnesses and the defendant, heard all the evidence, and considered and ruled upon all the arguments throughout the course of the trial, is in the best position to appreciate all the facts. He or she should have some limited discretion, as judges in other states do, to allow parole eligibility after a period of time served.

I do not send this bill back lightly. I recognize that the time remaining is short in this formal legislative session, and there are many who would like to see this bill signed into law in its present form. Nevertheless, I believe that this single change would significantly improve this bill. I ask that the legislature give this amendment prompt and thoughtful consideration, and return the bill with the amendment included in time for me to sign it into law next week.

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, a Gloucester Republican, issued a statement slamming the governor.

His actions to jeopardize the passage of the crime bill are both ill-timed and ill-advised by trying to amend a good and balanced bill with an extraordinary measure to protect repeat violent criminals, with precious little time remaining in the legislative session.

The governor's proposal was never seriously considered by the House or the Senate, and was expressly rejected by the conference committee, and yet he has chosen to risk the passage of the entire bill, which he has publicly characterized as ‘good’, for such a measure, in a repeat of his performance when the legislature first placed a gaming bill on his desk.