Gov. Deval Patrick has largely cleared his desk of the major bills sent his way during the flurry of legislating that coincided with the end of formal session for the year on July 31. But the state Legislature, meeting with skeleton crews as most lawmakers are in their districts campaigning, keeps churning out bills. With only two senators on hand Thursday, the Senate finished work in three significant bills, sending them on to the governor. The Senate enacted the so-called PAWS Act instituting new measure to prevent animal abuse (H 4388), as well as bills establishing uniform wage compliance and record keeping (S 858) and laying out criminal laws to deal with organized retail theft rings (H 1474). According to Rep. Bruce Ayers (D-Quincy), the PAWS Act raises maximum penalties for animal cruelty convictions from five to seven years and increases the maximum fine from $2,500 to $5,000. The bill also allows a penalty of up to 10 years and/or a fine of $10,000 for repeat convictions, and requires veterinarians to report suspected animal abuse. "Today is a great day on Beacon Hill. The fact of the matter was that the laws in Massachusetts were not strong enough to prevent animal abuse," Ayers said in a statement, crediting Sen. Bruce Tarr of Gloucester and Rep. Lou Kafka of Sharon for helping to push the bill through. "It is my hope that the passage of this bill will send a clear message that animal abuse will not be tolerated and that violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.


" Gov. Deval Patrick's amendment to legislation aimed at clearing titles in foreclosure cases was referred to the Senate Bills in Third Reading Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Ben Downing of Pittsfield. - M. Norton/SHNS


The Hampden County Bar Association is upset that Gov. Deval Patrick picked a judicial nominee from outside the region. Last month Patrick nominated Worcester Attorney Geoffrey German to fill a seat on the Hampden County Probate and Family Court. Members of the bar association feel someone from Hampden County or another part of western Massachusetts should have been chosen. "We are sensitive to the fact that the Judicial Nominating Committee has done its due diligence, but we feel appointing an individual from another part of the state is an injustice to the members of the public and the attorneys who practice in this important court," the bar association wrote to Patrick on July 24. German, a family law attorney, was before the Governor's Council Wednesday for a confirmation hearing. Barry Ryan, president of the Hampden County Bar Association, told the News Service the bar "has nothing against the candidate," and does not know him. They feel someone from the region would be a better fit, and want more input into the nominating process in the future, Ryan said. "We thought we had qualified candidates in Hampden County," he said. One Governor's Council member disagreed with the parochial nature of the bar association's objection. "We couldn't get a more qualified person," Councilor Marilyn Devaney said about German. "The eight councilors represent all of Massachusetts, and we are charged with having the most qualified people on the bench. Being a judge is not defined by district," Devaney added. Several witnesses from Worcester spoke Wednesday in favor of German's nomination to the bench, including Worcester Probate and Family Court Judge Lucille DiLeo, Worcester Superior Court Judge David Ricciardone, and Worcester Juvenile Court Clerk Magistrate Craig Smith. - C.Quinn/SHNS


Changes that Gov. Deval Patrick recommended to legislation promoting economic growth in the state were referred to legislative committees Thursday by the House. Patrick, as expected, agreed to the majority of the economic development and jobs bill (H 4437) that he signed on Wednesday. But he vetoed language granting Avon and Stoughton a special designation under the smart growth zoning district law, also known as 40R, providing state support for local development. "There is no valid policy justification for these special designations," Patrick wrote to lawmakers Wednesday. The governor also vetoed a section of the bill dealing with a new "live theater" tax credit and returned with an amendment a proposal for angel investor tax credits. A veto override may only occur during formal sessions, which are finished for the year. Patrick also re-filed legislation that lawmakers stripped from the final version of the jobs bill, which would have limited companies use of non-compete agreements. - C.Quinn/SHNS


Gov. Deval Patrick's office renovations are largely complete but the State House remains a work zone. Crews closed off corridors on the fourth floor Thursday as they busily and noisily worked to renovate a large room where visitors used to pick up hard copies of bills, before such operations moved online. Senate officials have discussed using the former "document room" as a potential meeting space should they proceed with renovations to the Senate Chamber on the third floor. The room has been under renovation since mid-summer, when a dividing wall was removed after workers determined it was not load-bearing. Plans call for different furniture arrangements to be available to senators for scenarios such as meetings, hearings, press conferences and full Senate sessions. Plumbers were on hand in July to move pipes that ran along the ceiling to allow for new ceiling fixtures. - M. Norton, M. Deehan/SHNS