Joined today by survivors, advocates, members of the law enforcement community and members of the Legislature at the Gavin Foundation\u2019s Devine Recovery Center in South Boston, Governor Charlie Baker, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito and Secretary of Public Safety and Security Daniel Bennett announced a\u00a0public safety legislative reform package\u00a0updating drug scheduling and witness intimidation statutes and strengthening penalties for the illegal distribution of drugs resulting in death and solicitation to commit murder.\n\nThe four provisions of the Baker-Polito Administration\u2019s legislative package address:\n\nLinking state drug classifications, with the exception of marijuana and other drugs already classified in Massachusetts, to emergency federal drug scheduling, allowing state law enforcement and prosecutors to more swiftly respond to the influx of new and dangerous synthetic drugs.\n\tDefining the illegal distribution of dangerous drugs resulting in death as manslaughter punishable by a minimum of five years in prison -- the same standard to which a driver under the influence who takes an innocent life is held.\n\tBolstering and clarifying witness intimidation statutes to ensure prosecutors have the ability to protect witnesses and their families from retaliation both before and after a trial.\n\tUpdating state law to treat solicitation of murder-for-hire as a felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.\n\u201cAs society keeps seeing evolving public safety threats, like dangerous drugs fueling the opioid epidemic and gang violence in our communities, it is critical that our laws give law enforcement the appropriate tools and enforcement measures to keep everyone safe,\u201d\u00a0said Governor Baker.\u00a0 \u201cThe Commonwealth is focused on curbing the deadly opioid and heroin epidemic, and these reforms will gives prosecutors and public safety officers the ability to better respond to new drugs coming into our communities, and to hold accountable drug dealers who put profits over the lives of other people.\u201d\n\n\u201cEvery day in cities and towns across Massachusetts, brave and extraordinary men, women and children step up to help prosecutors and law enforcement identify, convict and put away drug dealers, murderers and other criminals,\u201d\u00a0said Lt. Governor Polito.\u00a0\u201cOne of the commitments law enforcement makes is to do everything they can to protect them and their families, and this bill will make clear the Commonwealth will not tolerate attempts to harm or intimidate witnesses or their families before, during or after a trial.\u201d\n\nGovernor Baker, Lt. Governor Polito and Secretary Bennett were joined by advocates from the recovery, victim and survivor community in announcing the bill, including the President and CEO of the Gavin Foundation, John McGahan; Learn to Cope; the Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery (MOAR); Mothers for Justice and Equality Founder, President and CEO Monalisa Smith; and Aretha Mauge, who lost a loved one to a stabbing where no witnesses came forward; and Laura Martin, who lost a loved one to a drug overdose.\n\nMembers of the law enforcement community attending included: Massachusetts Major City Chiefs President and Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes; John Nelson of the Massachusetts Coalition of Police; and Donald Caisey representing the Boston Detectives Union and the Fraternal Order of Police\n\n\u201cUnder our current system, when a dangerous new drug appears on the scene, the federal government moves quickly to employ its emergency scheduling powers to make sure that federal law prohibits the importation and sale of these lethal drugs,\u201d\u00a0said Secretary of Public Safety and Security Dan Bennett. \u201cIf state laws lag behind it makes sense to adopt federal scheduling, as other states have, to ensure police can take action when they encounter lethal new drugs out on the streets.\u201d\n\n\u201cGovernor Baker\u2019s bill updates existing legislation to fix flaws and fill in gaps related to dangerous drugs and soliciting criminal conduct,\u201d\u00a0said Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley. \u201cBut it also marks a major step forward in efforts to protect the victims, witnesses, and their loved ones.\u00a0 By updating and clarifying the statutes related to witness protection and intimidation, it makes clear that their safety is always our first concern.\u201d\n\nThe Massachusetts District Attorneys Association, Massachusetts Major City Police Chiefs Association and Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association have all endorsed the administration\u2019s legislation.\n\n\u201cThese are smart solutions to dangerous crimes the people of the Commonwealth face every day,\u201d\u00a0said Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes, President of Massachusetts Major City Chiefs of Police Association.\u00a0 \u201cThe adoption of the federal drug scheduling would put Massachusetts law enforcement in a situation to act as soon as these new and dangerous drugs arrive in the Commonwealth.\u201d\n\n\u201cWitness intimidation is a serious problem for public safety and presents a significant impediment to law enforcement\u2019s efforts to reduce gang activity, violent crime, sexual assaults and illegal drug activity,\u201d\u00a0said Donald Caisey, President of Boston Detectives Union.\u00a0\u201cGov. Baker\u2019s proposal will go a long way towards providing necessary tools to make our city\u2019s streets safer.\u201d\n\n\u201cThe efforts being taken by the Governor and District Attorney Conley are very important to families who have lost loved ones to senseless violent crimes,\u201d\u00a0said Monalisa Smith, Founder, President \u0026 CEO, of Mothers for Justice and Equality. \u201cThere is a fear factor that exists with these families who don\u2019t know the identity of the perpetrator because no one has come forward and because of that, these families live in the shadow of that fear. \u00a0This legislation is important because it will help people who have witnessed a crime feel safer about coming forward.\u00a0 Having the crime solved, helps us all to heal.\u201d\u00a0\n\n\u201cGavin Foundation supports Governor Baker\u2019s public safety and public health approach to addressing the opiate epidemic,\u201d said\u00a0John P. McGahan, President/CEO Gavin Foundation, Inc.\u00a0\u201cThis comprehensive bill addresses witness intimidation, increases accountability of drug traffickers and ensures appropriate classification of new to the market controlled substances. \u00a0\u00a0We are grateful for the Governor\u2019s leadership and the work of the legislators on this important issue.\u201d \u00a0\u00a0\n\nThe Baker-Polito Administration\u2019s Legislative Public Safety Package:\n\nLinked Federal Drug Scheduling:\u00a0The federal government has historically responded swiftly to recognize and prohibit the importation and sale of lethal new and synthetic drugs through emergency scheduling powers, whereas state law must be amended to adopt prohibition. This scenario allows dangerous new synthetic drugs like Carfentanil and 25I-NBOMe (\u201cN-Bomb\u201d) to go unclassified, and frustrates the ability of state and local law enforcement to arrest dealers or obtain search warrants to seize these drugs. The proposal links state drug classifications, with the exception of marijuana, to the federal scheduling process, as New Hampshire has done, while retaining Massachusetts\u2019 authority to make the final decision on the treatment of new drugs.\n\tDeath Caused by Illegal Distribution of Dangerous Drugs:\u00a0The opioid crisis and drug overdoses have taken a tragic toll on the Commonwealth\u2019s families and communities. While efforts continue to prioritize education, prevention, treatment and recovery, stronger penalties are needed to hold accountable those who profit from the sale of these dangerous drugs. Current state law treats driving under the influence and taking innocent lives as manslaughter punishable by a minimum of five years in prison. This proposal would hold drug dealers distributing these dangerous poisons to the same standard, reflecting the seriousness and devastation of the harm they have caused.\n\tWitness Intimidation and Protection:\u00a0The Commonwealth and administration is committed to protecting from harm those brave citizens who have stood up to identify and help convict dangerous criminals.\u00a0 Witness intimidation is a felony under current law, but efforts to expand those protections in 2006 unintentionally withdrew protections for victims after they testified. In 2011, a Supreme Judicial Court decision invalidated the conviction of a man who had threatened to harm the daughter of his probation officer in retaliation for the probation officer telling a judge that he had violated his probation. This proposal would clarify and fix this gap in the statute, as the SJC has suggested, to ensure the Commonwealth\u2019s laws make clear that harm, or threat of harm, will not be tolerated.\n\tThis provision also makes explicit that threats of harm to a family member will be treated just as seriously as a threat to a witness, and updates the Witness Protection Law to ensure prosecutors can assist witnesses and their families to keep them safe from retaliation both before and after a trial.\n\t\n\tSolicitation of Murder:\u00a0In most states attempting to procure a murder for hire (known as \u201csolicitation to commit a felony\u201d) is a serious felony; in Maine and New Hampshire, for instance, solicitation to commit murder is punishable by up to 30 years in prison. Under current Massachusetts law, soliciting the murder of another person is treated as a misdemeanor.\u00a0 This proposal updates the Massachusetts statute to correct this flaw, and would treat solicitation to commit a felony with the appropriate level of seriousness.