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Mass. Senate nixes independent redistricting panel

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Mass. Senate nixes independent redistricting panel

The Massachusetts Senate has voted against a Republican-led proposal to create an independent redistricting commission.

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr said using an independent commission to help draw new legislative and congressional maps would restore public confidence in the process.

Sen. Stanley Rosenberg disagreed. The Amherst Democrat is leading the Senate redistricting effort and said there’s no evidence that states with independent commissions draw better maps than those that rely on legislative committees.

The senate voted 34-5 against the GOP plan, largely along party lines.

Secretary of State William Galvin and government watchdog groups have also pushed for an independent commission.

Massachusetts is losing a seat in the U.S. House, reducing the number of congressional districts from 10 to nine.

$115M spent lobbying Mass. lawmakers in 2010

Lobbying state lawmakers is a booming business on Beacon Hill.

According to the secretary of state’s office, businesses, unions and other groups spent more than $115 million on political lobbying in 2010, up from $96 million in 2009.

The nearly 20 percent hike came amid a fierce debate on casino gambling and an ongoing state budget crunch requiring spending cuts.

Businesses and unions not only hire lobbyists to try to push through new bills, but also to help defeat other measures and to persuade lawmakers to spare some programs from deeper cuts.

On the $115 million spent last year, $91.7 million went into the paychecks of lobbyists. Another $22.5 million went to expenses like consulting and meals.

Lobbyists also made $1.4 million in direct contributions to lawmaker’s campaigns.

Mass. suspends release of parolees

Massachusetts has suspended the release of all inmates who had previously won parole as the governor assembles a new parole board to replace members who resigned under pressure after releasing a man who killed a Woburn police officer.

John Grossman, the state’s undersecretary of public safety, said in a statement released to The Boston Globe that stopped granting parole last Friday during the “transition period to new leadership and to ensure public safety.”

The parole board is in the midst of an overhaul after career criminal Domenic Cinelli, who was paroled despite serving three life sentences, shot and killed veteran Officer John Maguire on the day after Christmas during a department store robbery.

Inmate rights advocates say it is unfair to withdraw parole for prisoners already promised release.

Mass. man jailed in mortgage fraud scheme

A suspended attorney has been sentenced to 12 years in federal prison for leading a group that defrauded 10 mortgage lenders of more than $10.6 million in Massachusetts.

Eric Levine of Brookline was sentenced last week for conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering.

Federal prosecutors say the 58-year-old and 10 others submitted false information on mortgage loan applications from May 2005 to December 2006 and made at least $1.7 million through the scheme.

Prosecutors say the group recruited straw borrowers and then obtained loans higher than the purchase prices of properties. They pocketed the difference between the actual purchase price and the loan amount.

The group fraudulently bought and sold 21 properties, including those in Boston, Cohasset, Quincy and Brockton.

Four other defendants were convicted, five others pleaded guilty before trial and one is awaiting trial.