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Fattman Again Postpones Police Bill Debate In Mass. Senate

For the second day in a row, Republican Sen. Ryan Fattman put a hold on a sweeping police reform bill Democratic leaders are working to pass, forcing the Senate into the weekend without having voted on a major priority that they're aiming to get done this month.

Fattman, a Sutton Republican, has said that the lack of a public hearing on the bill and the limited time given to members to review the legislation and its amendments have made it unfair to press forward. The bill was introduced by leaders on Monday, and senators proposed 145 amendments.

The move by Fattman to lay the bill on the table again Friday pushes off debate until at least the next formal session. Senate leaders did not immediately say when that would be.

"We all want to get to yes. We're just not there yet. It's not ready for prime time. Hopefully we get there," Fattman said. Fattman said there have also been Democrats encouraging of his efforts to buy more time to review the bill.

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr had said earlier on his way into session that the 17 hours from when Fattman made his motion to delay debate on Thursday and the start of the 10 a.m. session on Friday had been productive. But he could not say with certainty that someone would not again try to delay debate.

"There's no question that the extra amount of time makes a difference and we're still working through the bill, analyzing it, hearing from people and there's a lot of two-way communication going on, and that is a critically important thing, particularly in the absence of a public hearing," Tarr told the News Service on his way to the rare Friday session.

While the Senate's rules do not speak to how many times a bill can be tabled, presiding officers have traditionally allowed bills to be tabled three times before ruling the motion to be dilatory.

Senate President Karen Spilka went out of her way after the bill was tabled Friday to note that it was "for the second time."

On Thursday night, Spilka and Sens. Sonia Chang-Diaz and William Brownsberger issued a statement arguing that a public debate was the best way to vet the bill.

"The Senate is going to stay focused on what we set out to do with this bill: protect the lives of our Black and brown residents from systemic racism and institutionalized violence," the Senate leaders said. "We know that these conversations are difficult, and the actions we're called to take will not be easy, but it is our responsibility to begin to respond to the voices who have called on us to make these changes. We welcome further discussion on the very important provisions of this bill — and the right way to do that is to proceed with debate on the bill and its amendments."

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