Pubdate: Wed, 06 Aug 2014
Source: Recorder, The (MA)
Copyright: 2014 The Recorder
Author: Richie Davis


While many criticize her position, she says law punishes users

ORANGE -- North Quabbin legislator Denise Andrews has come under fire
for being the only member of the House of Representatives to vote
against toughening penalties for heroin trafficking.

The Republican candidate for the Second Franklin District House seat
now held by Andrews has criticized the incumbent for what she calls
"epic blindness to local concerns" in being the sole vote to sustain a
gubernatorial veto against raising the maximum sentence for heroin
trafficking from 20 to 30 years.

The House voted last week 151-1 to override Gov. Deval Patrick's veto
against raising the maximum sentence for trafficking between 18 and 99
grams of heroin.

"In effect, Rep. Andrews' vote would have maintained the existing
ineffective level of sanction for the most explosive and damaging
social problem in the 2nd Franklin District," said Athol Republican
Susannah Whipps Lee. She will square off against Orange Republican
Karen Anderson in the Sept. 9 primary to see who will challenge
two-term Democrat Andrews.

"Where does my opponent spend her time? Certainly not on Main Street
in Athol or Orange. Certainly not in Baldwinville. The illegal use of
opiates is epidemic in our area and only getting worse. This is
further proof of Ms. Andrews' epic blindness to local concerns," said

Lee, who failed in her 2012 bid to unseat Andrews, added, "If this
doesn't point to the need for new representation, what does? This sort
of epic insensitivity only makes me want to increase my efforts to get

Andrews responded, "When I looked at the vetoes that came back, I have
tremendous respect for the Gov. Patrick, and when I look at where his
perspective is and what his comments were, this is what I consider
when I vote."

Andrews pointed to her vote as an example of how she broke with the
ranks of fellow Democrats and the ranks of party leadership because
she doesn't believe in mandatory minimum sentences, doesn't believe in
"excessive incarceration" and doesn't believe in the Legislature
telling judges how to do their job.

"I'm there to read the details, take a vote and not follow blindly
party leadership," she said.

Former legislator John Merrigan, a Franklin County court official and
co-founder of the regional Opioid Education and Awareness Task Force,
said he did not understand a 151-1 vote.

"Dazed and confused. Seriously, I don't understand it," Merrigan said.
"We have compassion towards people that have been caught up in the
disease, but I think law enforcement has made it very clear that
traffickers will face the full extent of the justice system if they
catch them."

Merrigan said he could use clarification on the numbers involved --
grams are not the common measure of heroin -- but remained concerned.
"If she had concerns or reservations I wish she had informed her
constituency, who have been very active with the task force effort in
the county and the North Quabbin Region," Merrigan said.

Alex Zaroulis, a spokeswoman for the governor's office, said Patrick
vetoed the increase for 18 to 99 gram trafficking but signed the
section increasing by the same amount the penalty for trafficking 100
grams or more. "By doing this we addressed the concern about
increasing the maximum penalty for trafficking of smaller amounts,
which would more likely impact individuals suffering from addiction,
while at the same time increasing the penalties for those trafficking
in larger amounts, which would more likely include individuals
profiting from and taking advantage of individuals with addiction
disease," Zaroulis wrote.

Patrick called the maximum penalties "disproportionate" in vetoing the
first section.

Lee pointed to Andrews' vote as an indication of the incumbent being
out of touch with a serious drug problem in the district, adding, "No
one, from the police departments to the social service agencies, from
the cops on the beat to the firefighters who have to rush to saves the
lives of those who have overdosed, can turn a blind eye on this
problem. ... This is the newest and most deadly iteration of the
social ills that have been spawned by generational unemployment and

Andrews pointed to her securing $2 million for an opiate
rehabilitation facility in Petersham as well as her involvement on the
local opiate task force.

The Second Franklin District includes Gill, Erving, Warwick, Orange,
New Salem and Wendell in New Salem in Franklin County.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt