Senators pack gun law changes into bond bill

The Massachusetts State House in Boston. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
The Massachusetts State House in Boston. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Senators on Saturday approved a $164 million bill to improve technology in the judiciary and packed into the bill major gun law changes, with a slightly different approach than the House took on that issue.

And in another divergence, the Senate also gave initial approval to standalone bills limiting law enforcement use of facial recognition and two other topics that the House had included in its judiciary IT borrowing bill.

The bond bill (S 3087) that emerged from the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Saturday, a few hours before the chamber passed it, would make $94 million available to establish digital courthouses and courtrooms, $35 million to modernize security systems and $35 million to modernize technology for court administrative operations, according to a summary.

Senators voted 39-1 to pass the bill, with Republican Sen. Ryan Fattman casting the dissenting vote.

The Senate bill includes some changes to the process of acquiring a license to carry a firearm, a response to the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen case. In that case, justices said New York's requirement that applications demonstrate "proper cause" for a concealed carry permit was unconstitutional and singled out a "good reason" provision in Massachusetts law as an analogue.

But it does not exactly mirror the language the House added to its judiciary IT bond bill via a Rep. Mike Day amendment adopted 120-33. The House would have cut the duration of a license in half from six years to three years, and the Senate bill makes no such change.

The Senate also gave initial approval to three bills reported in part from the underlying House legislation dealing with homestead estates (S 3085), notary services (S 3086) and facial recognition regulations (S 3084).

Representatives voted 149-4 on a Rep. Orlando Ramos amendment to their judiciary IT bond bill that would limit law enforcement use of biometric surveillance, including by requiring police to acquire a warrant from a judge before they could run a facial recognition search, with a handful of exceptions.


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