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Sentencing bill conferees say they’re close, but lack deal with month left

The House chairman leading prolonged negotiations with the Senate on an omnibus crime and sentencing bill said Thursday that he believed lawmakers were close to a compromise, and his Senate counterpart said several key issues had been tentatively resolved.

State Representative Eugene O’Flaherty, a Chelsea Democrat and cochair of the Judiciary Committee, said the House had received the Senate’s latest counteroffer this week and was prepared to analyze and respond to the proposal before the July 4 holiday.

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The activity within the conference committee comes as the Legislature prepares to enter its final month of formal sessions. The competing bills that cleared the House and Senate tackling habitual offenders, parole eligibility, and reduced mandatory minimum sentencing for certain drug offenses have been in conference since November.

“I think it’s fair to say we are closer now than we ever have been before,” O’Flaherty said, during a meeting of the six conference committee members.

The crux of the bill is a proposal to require that offenders who commit their third serious felony face the maximum possible sentence without the possibility of parole. The measure is driven in part by the 2010 shooting death of a Woburn police officer by a career criminal out on parole.

Les Gosule, whose daughter Melissa was murdered in 1999 by a habitual felon and who has been advocating for a “three-strikes” law for more than a decade, attended the meeting.

State Senator Cynthia Creem, Democrat of Newton, the lead Senate negotiator, said the Senate had agreed to drop its insistence that a final bill include an expansion of wiretapping authority .

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