Optimism is true moral courage.
Don’t for a moment think repeal of the death penalty is dead in the wake of today’s 12-12 Senate vote and subsequent tabling motion.
In fact, while repeal advocates failed to get their 13th vote for passage (clearly that would have been Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, the only Democrat to oppose repeal), they did come up with a second Republican in favor of repeal.
Bob Odell, R-Lempster, not only voted for repeal, but he spoke eloquently in favor of not watering the bill down with language which would have made the state’s killing of Michael Addison easier. (My position all along has been if you’re going to be anti-death penalty, you have to be anti-death penalty for all, including Addison).
Odell’s position prior to the vote was generally unknown, but I had suggested here last week that he would be a likely candidate among Republicans to join Sam Cataldo, R-Farmington, one of the repeal bill’s co-sponsors.
Repeal opponents, till the very last moment, believed that they had a chance to get a third Republican, Russ Prescott, of Kingston, who had been lobbied hard by the Catholic Church.
Action now shifts back to the House. As I elicited in a question to Speaker Norelli and then reported here, House rules allow for any bill which has been approved by the House to be added as an amendment to any Senate bill. By having passed previously, the bill automatically becomes germane, and the Speaker cannot rule it out of order.
Of course, an amendment could only be applied to a bill with an ought to pass motion. If a committee sends a bill forward with an inexpedient to legislate (ITL) motion, no amendments can be offered prior to the vote on ITL.
Don’t pooh pooh this parliamentary situation because it sounds like way too much “inside baseball”.
Rules are vital to the way we get things done.
Two Senate bills, currently before the House, come to mind for the amendment process. One, of course, is the two casino gambling bill, and it’s most likely no coincidence that the House Ways and Means Committee delayed action on that bill today, so that it cannot make it on the calendar for next week.
Mostly likely (but by no means certainly) that bill will emerge from Ways and Means with an 11-9 motion of ITL which would have to be overturned on the floor prior to any amendments being offered.
Death penalty repeal sponsor Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, voted against ITL on last month’s gambling bill, so he could not be counted among the 15 who would have to flip on the gambling vote. He and his group, however, could certainly identify any number of people who might flip on the gambling issue if they could get death penalty repeal in the process. Just as I have identified 30 Libertarian-types who might be willing to vote against a gambling ITL so as to offer an amendment on decriminalization of marijuana, Team Cushing have an extra week to identify death penalty repeal forces—I will name two Republicans just to get them started. Kathy Souza, of Manchester, of John Cebrowski, of Bedford, have long been anti-gambling but pro death penalty repeal.
With the 30 I’ve already identified and those Team Cushing might come up with in the next fortnight, the message from today’s action in the Senate is that not only is the death penalty repeal very much alive but so too is gambling and decriminalization.
Of course when you start moving parts around, other parts move as well. Senator Odell, now that he’s on the record in favor of the death penalty repeal, has also long been opposed to gambling. So too with Democrats Martha Fuller Clark and David Pierce. If you lose those three, you would need more than just Lou and the President to shift to get to 13 votes in the Senate. Senators Rausch and Stiles would certainly come into play.
Only a cynic would point out that the Senate today not only failed to pass the death penalty repeal, but it refused to even consider taking up the decriminalization bill which, like the death penalty repeal, had received 70 percent in the House. Call me a cynic.
Senators cited one of their rules that they had already considered a similar bill last year, but my guess is that Senators like President Chuck Morse and D’Allesnadro are so vested in their gambling bill (and likely realize that this might be their last chance to pass it) that they would agree to both decriminalization and death penalty repeal as part of a grand package.
Of course, the House would have to agree to that first, and ultimately the governor would have to decide whether she would veto such an omnibus bill.
My insider sources reveal that while publicly saying she would sign a bill repealing the death penalty, Governor Maggie Hassan was secretly working behind the scenes today to make sure such a bill never gets to her desk. In an attempt to curry favor with the law enforcement community, she is out of step with 90 percent of House Democrats and all Senate Democrats except D’Allesandro on the death penalty repeal and similar numbers on decriminalization.
Talk about the plot thickening!
Lest I forget, I had mentioned two possible Senate bills for the amendment process. The other, Donna Soucy’s domestic violence bill, passed the Senate 24-0 and is currently with Cushing’s own Criminal Justice Committee. Unlike the gambling bill, it most assuredly will come to the floor with an ought to pass motion, thus opening it up to amendments, but Cushing could actually offer the amendment in committee.
When I suggested that idea to a reporter moments ago, the reporter countered that Cushing is too vested in the domestic violence bill to even think about jeopardizing it with an amendment. My response was twofold. One, it really wouldn’t be jeopardizing the bill. Should the Senate not accept the amendment, it would not need to kill the bill, merely send it to a committee of conference. Point two—lest we forget, this is the same Representative Cushing who lost a lot of respect among Republicans (including me) by attempting to attach a totally non-germane gun study amendment to a bill from J.R. Hoell.
If we would do that for a rather innocuous gun study, about which he cares very little, one can only imagine the lengths to which he would go to save the death penalty repeal which he has made his raison d’etre.
Ah yes, the plot thickens. To attempt to attach repeal to the gambling bill which may never get beyond the ITL stage or to place it on the domestic violence bill? Or something else?
Das ist die Frage (that is the question for you not versed in proper German).
Stay tuned. Today’s Senate action on death and decrim did not end the debate, merely shifted it to another forum. It could get so interesting, we’ll have to start charging admission to see what happens. Of course, if we raise enough in admission fees, we won’t need the gambling revenue (only kidding).