Although the legislative session ends Tuesday at midnight, Gov. Deval Patrick has 10 days to sign any bills that land on his desk. But anything he vetoes cannot be overridden since the Legislature will have adjourned.
Perhaps the most-watched bill in this scenario is the mandatory sentencing bill, also called the "three-strikes" law or "Melissa's Bill," over which the governor and Legislature have locked horns.
The bill eliminates parole for someone convicted three times of one of 40 or so violent crimes, with at least one conviction having carried a minimum three-year prison term.
Melrose's state legislators, Sen. Katherine Clark and Rep. Paul Brodeur, both previously voted in favor of the bill before it was sent to the governor's desk, issuing a press release publicly supporting the bill.
"This balanced approach represents a solid step forward in our effort to keep the most violent, habitual criminals out of our communities and behind bars,” Clark said in the press release, adding that the reforms to the parole system are "common sense" and allows opportunities for rehab for nonviolent drug offenders.
"This legislation is an important step forward because it targets a small number of repeat violent offenders," Brodeur said in the press release. “This bill also makes common sense reforms for the sentencing of nonviolent drug offenses and it opens the door for expanding rehabilitation opportunities."
Although it passed with overwhelming support in both chambers last week, Patrick sent it back on Saturday, asking for an amendment that increases judicial discretion. But both the House and Senate reacted swiftly Monday, rejecting the amendment and putting it back on Patrick's desk as is—and thereby forcing Patrick to make an all-or-nothing choice.
Patrick has two options: sign the bill without the amendment or veto the entire thing. Either choice he makes will be the final call on the "three strikes" bill this session.
Warning of possible unintended "unjust consequences" that can arise from mandatory sentencing laws, Patrick wrote in a letter to the Legislature, "None of us is wise or prescient enough to foresee each and every circumstance in which the new habitual offender provisions may apply."
But House Speaker Robert DeLeo said the governor's proposed amendment effectively guts the the bill.
The governor, however, is not alone in his concerns. The bill did not enjoy the support of Boston's city council, which urged the Legislature to write in more judicial control, or by Boston Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, who voted with Massachusetts Black and Latino Caucus.
Patrick has not indicated whether he plans to sign or veto the "three strikes" bill.