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STATE CAPITOL BRIEFS – TUESDAY, SEP. 15, 2015

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

HEALEY “OPEN” TO IDEA OF POLICE BODY CAMERAS

Attorney General Maura Healey on Tuesday said she is “open” to the idea of having police officers in the state wear body cameras, though she highlighted several questions she wants answered first. “I am generally supportive but I’ll say this, it’s more complicated than people might appreciate in the first instance,” Healey said during her monthly radio appearance on WGBH. “When you approach somebody and you’re wearing a body camera, you need to think also about their privacy, the privacy of a crime victim, the privacy of a witness to that crime. You need to think about things that aren’t particularly exciting, but are important. How are you going to store and capture that data and then who is going to have access to that data?” Healey said her office is working with the National Association of Attorneys General to study the issue at the national level, and recently reviewed a report by the Massachusetts Police Chiefs Association and Massachusetts Major City Chiefs that addressed the issue of body cameras. “It’s an important discussion here and nationally. I think you’ve seen a willingness on the part of police departments in our state to engage in that discussion, and I think that’s terrific,” the attorney general said. “I think you’ve seen a number of chiefs express support for body cameras, you’ve seen other chiefs who want to learn more, learn from some departments that have body cameras in use.” Last month, new State Police Colonel Richard McKeon said the State Police will continue to explore the possible use of body cameras on troopers, an idea Senate President Stanley Rosenberg has voiced support for after incidents inside and outside Massachusetts where police actions have come into question. – Colin A. Young /SHNS

SENATE PLANS HEARING ON HOMEOWNER INSURE RATES

Citing recent approvals of rate increases of more than 8 percent, a Senate committee on Tuesday announced plans for a public hearing next week on homeowner’s insurance premiums. The Senate Committee on Post Audit and Oversight, chaired by Lexington Democrat Sen. Michael Barrett, plans to inquire about the state’s rate-setting process and the reasonableness of rates. The committee cited Division of Insurance approval this year for rates hikes of 8.9 percent for Mapfre USA Corp., 9.1 percent for Safety Insurance, and 7.7 percent for Bunker Hill Insurance. Expected to testify, according to the committee, are Insurance Commissioner Dan Judson, someone from Attorney General Maura Healey’s office, Sen. Dan Wolf and Rep. Jim Cantwell, former State Rating Bureau Director Steve D’Amato, Citizens for Homeowners Insurance Reform President Paula Aschettino, Massachusetts Insurance Federation Executive Director John Murphy, and insurance industry officials. The hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 22 in Room 428 of the State House. – Michael Norton /SHNS

HEALEY NOT GIVING UP ON TRAFFIC IMPROVEMENTS FOR SULLIVAN SQ.

Despite the state’s environmental chief granting an important certificate to the planned Wynn resort casino project in Everett over her objections, Attorney General Maura Healey said she plans to continue to push for a long-term solution to traffic problems in the area. “This is a time when all stakeholders need to come together and arrive at a long-term plan so we’re not in a situation where something is built out and you try to Band-Aid it later,” Healey said during her monthly radio appearance on WGBH. “Let’s get it right right now as this goes forward.” The attorney general, a Charlestown resident and casino gaming opponent, had previously urged Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Matthew Beaton to withhold an environmental certificate needed for the Wynn casino project to move forward until Wynn develops a long-term traffic solution for Rutherford Avenue and Sullivan Square. Beaton, however, granted the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act certificate for the $1.7 billion resort casino project in late August. “The good news is, when the secretary did finally issue the MEPA certificate, he did that with a number of conditions that Wynn now has to meet,” Healey said. “And the second thing that the Department of Transportation has done is they’ve called for a regional working group to work on a long-term solution to Sullivan Square.” Healey said she and her office will continue to work with MassDOT, the cities of Boston, Somerville and Everett, and Wynn to make sure concerns over traffic near the planned casino are addressed. “I am optimistic that this can be a process that achieves that kind of solution. There are some pretty robust requirements there that the secretary has imposed,” she said. “We’ll certainly work in partnership to see that that happens.” Already, Wynn has announced that it will subsidize MBTA Orange Line operations to the tune of $7.36 million over 15 years for improvements that will be in place when it opens its resort casino along the Mystic River. Wynn has also said it is funding $76 million in local traffic improvements and will heavily promote the use of alternative transportation modes to and from the casino. – Colin A. Young/SHNS