Introduce a bill that addresses a specific crime and carries the name of a specific victim of that crime, and lawmakers fall all over themselves trying to get it passed. But give them a comprehensive bill aimed at addressing a wide variety of law-and-order issues, and there's no rush to do anything.
With our Great and General Court scheduled to adjourn the end of July so those relatively few members with opponents can concentrate on winning re-election, time is running out to act on the comprehensive crime bill currently before a House-Senate conference committee. Its delay would be a grave disservice the public, which wants to know that habitual, violent offenders are kept behind bars.
The "three strikes" provision of the law — which would put the most serious criminals in jail for life, without chance of parole, upon their third felony conviction — provides its greatest appeal. But has also generated the most controversy.
Still, even Gov. Patrick says it's time to act.
"We need a good bill. ... At a minimum, we need the components of a sensible, restrained three-strikes (bill)," he told reporters last week.
The bill has broad, bipartisan support, including that of Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, and Assistant House Minority Leader Brad Hill, R-Ipswich, both of whom serve on the conference panel. But that committee has been slow to act as the various special interests, including the district attorneys and defense advocates, seek to add or subtract from the final bill.
This should not have to wait until next year.