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Massachusetts legislators appear to have deal on revenge porn bill

Massachusetts Statehouse.
Elizabeth Román
/
NEPM
Massachusetts Statehouse.

Lawmakers hashing out the differences between House and Senate versions of a bill to crack down on so-called revenge porn and coercive control appear to be closing in on a deal.

The conference committee retrieved a "jacket" — the form used to file a compromise — from the House clerk's office around noon on Tuesday, the clerk's office told the State House News Service.

House Republican Leader Bradley Jones Jr. said his designee on the panel, Rep. Alyson Sullivan-Almeida, R- Abington, told him "that she was signing the jacket."

"And I assume that means that, unless there's trouble getting the signatures, that it would be filed today," Jones said.

Jones said he was "under the impression there's a conference committee report being filed" on the revenge porn bill, though he was not sure whether it would come to the House floor on Wednesday or Thursday.

The House has a formal session on the books for Wednesday, and a "potential" formal in the works for Thursday. The Senate has a formal session scheduled for Thursday. Conference reports must be filed by 8 p.m. in order to hit the floor the following afternoon.

Nithya Badrinath, policy director of Jane Doe Inc., one of the organizations pushing for the bill's enactment, said there had been "chatter that some deal is going to come out soon" in recent weeks.

"We've heard in the past couple weeks that they're talking, working on it, we're going to get to a deal soon. I know it's been obviously a priority for both the Senate and House to get a deal done," Badrinath told the News Service.

A "two-year push" for the coercive control piece followed a "multi-session initiative," started under Gov. Charlie Baker, to ban revenge porn, Badrinath said.

When the Senate passed its version of the bill in March, Massachusetts was on deck to potentially be the 49th state to ban revenge pornography, the dissemination of sexually explicit material without the subject's consent.

The Joint Committee on the Judiciary added language to the bill last year expanding the state's definition of abuse to include coercive control -- behaviors aimed at limiting a victim's safety or autonomy. The House passed the bill in January.

The bill is about "advancing protections for both sexual assault and domestic violence survivors," Badrinath said, adding that there were "minor differences" between the House and Senate versions.

Rep. Michael Day, D-Stoneham and Sen. John Keenan, D-Quincy are leading the conference talks, joined by Rep. Christine Barber, Sen. James Eldridge, Rep. Sullivan-Almeida, and Sen. Ryan Fattman.

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