As alluded to here yesterday, interest in House Bill 135, the so-called Stand Your Ground repeal, was tremendous, so much so in fact that after having a double room opened up for the hearing in the legislative office building, the Speaker decided to move the hearing to Reps Hall so everyone could sit in on it.
There were probably 200 or so people there, most against the bill although I was surprised by the courage displayed by some supporters of the bill (including a couple from the clergy) in actually coming forward to speak in favor.
Among the 70 or so speaking against the bill, at least two felt compelled to rebut the church spokespeople. One person went so far as to suggest hypocrisy on the part of the Pope for opposing the right to defend yourself when he has a Swiss Guard to defend him at the Vatican.
No, you just can't make this stuff up.
House rules prevent displays of either support or opposition to bills, but opponents took a while to catch on. They had to be admonished three times before they stopped applauding some of the more demagogic appeals in the hall...not that there's anything wrong with demagoguery. Is there? The former Speaker would have probably cleared the hall, but Criminal Justice Chair Laura Pantelakos displayed great forbearance.
That same former Speaker, by the way, last year refused to move a Finance Committee meeting to Reps Hall even though the room was overflowing. His reason--he didn't want to give opponents of the budget credit for showing up in such large numbers as to require a move. They spread out into the hallways, thus creating a hazard. I'm not making this up...I was on Finance at the time and heard the calls back and forth to the Speaker's office.
Speaker Terie Norelli deserves credit for moving the hearing on House Bill 135. Agree or disagree, you deserve a place to sit as you wait to address the legislature and even to listen in on discussions.
The hearing lasted until after 7 p.m. Much of the testimony was repetitive, but as a member of the committee, I listened attentively for as long as I could (sorry, I had an oil change scheduled for 6 p.m.).
Word today is that there will NOT be a subcommittee on the bill. Only one member of Criminal Justice thought it necessary. I certainly don't; I trust just about everyone has made up his or her mind by now and no amount of new information is going to change much.
As I was leaving, an opponent of the bill said to me, "ITL, huh?" That's a reference to inexpedient to legislate; in other words, killing the bill which would kill stand your ground. "I don't think so," I replied, not indicating that I either support or oppose to bill but simply that with 220 Democrats and 178 Republicans in the House, it will most likely pass, and I suspect that more Republicans will vote for it than Democrats will vote against it. Look to that roll call on the guns in the House bill as a fairly good indication, not perfect mind you, but fairly good. On that, six Republicans (including I--those named by the bully without a pulpit on his Facebook site) voted for not allowing guns; four Democats for allowing them in the final vote of 196-153.