Massachusetts Governor Vetoes Decriminalization Provisions 8/2/02

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Massachusetts lame-duck Governor Jane Swift has vetoed a provision in the state budget just approved by the state legislature that would have transferred from prosecutors to judges the option of treating many minor, nonviolent offenses -- including drug possession offenses -- as a civil matter instead of a criminal offense. The decriminalization provisions were included in the state budget by the House Ways and Means Committee, as a way to save money in a state that is facing a $2.5 billion budget shortfall. The committee said that state prosecutors, who currently have this option, have failed to exercise it.

House Ways and Means Chairman John H. Rogers (D-Norwood) said the provision could save about $1 million a year, since the state isn't required to provide a lawyer in civil cases.

The state is spending $2.5 million annually on lawyers to defend approximately 5,000 indigent people each year on low-level misdemeanor charges, according to the Committee for Public Counsel Services.

Rogers called it a "waste of taxpayer money" to mount a full legal defense for crimes like running red lights.

Gov. Swift, who is not a candidate for re-election in November, said she vetoed the decriminalization provisions because they "unnecessarily took power away from prosecutors."

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Issue #248, 8/2/02 Editorial: Getting from Here to There | Despite Supreme Court Ruling, No Wave of High School Drug Testing Foreseen | US Prison Population Leveling Off, Feds Drive Small Increase | Needle Exchange 2002:00:00 A Long Way Traveled, A Long Way to Go | Baltimore Killings Continue as Politicians Continue to Ignore Role of Prohibition | Stossel Special Spurs War of Letters to ABC | Newsbrief: Cooking Speed Equals Child Abuse Under New Tennessee Law | Massachusetts Governor Vetoes Decriminalization Provisions | Newsbrief: Afghan Crop Report Says Opium Eradication a Joke | Newsbrief: Leading British Comedian Says Legalize It All | Newsbrief: Alabama Rape Victim Ordered to Provide Urine Sample for Drug Test | Newsbrief: Tennessee School Board Ordered to Back Off on Zero Tolerance -- Right to Public Education at Issue | Newsbrief: Seattle Marijuana Enforcement Initiative Signatures Submitted | Web Scan: CriminalDefense.com, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Harry Levine, Ethan Nadelmann, Medical Marijuana Research, School Daily | Legislative Alerts: Rave Bill, Medical Marijuana, Higher Education Act Drug Provision | The Reformer's Calendar
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