Democrats, still divided on death penalty repeal, may vote on bill Tuesday


Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, introduces her bill to repeal Colorado’s death penalty, during a committee hearing Tuesday at the Capitol.

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DENVER — A bill to repeal Colorado’s death penalty remains in a holding pattern on Thursday, with sponsors considering how to move ahead given a looming veto threat from Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The House Judiciary Committee heard nine hours of testimony Tuesday on House Bill 1264, but then put off a vote.

The committee meets again Thursday afternoon but is not scheduled to take up the bill.

So what’s the hold-up?

Some Democratic House members who support the proposal in theory are a bit tentative after a caucus luncheon with the governor on Tuesday, just before the hearing began, when he indicated that he might veto the bill.

Especially after passing House Bill 1226, a concealed weapons ban on college campuses, only to see the measure killed in the Senate, House Democrats aren’t eager to take another risky vote on a bill that isn’t likely to become law.

“I know that’s a concern,” the sponsor, Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, told FOX31 Denver Thursday morning. “But that happens with any bill, that people may feel there’s no point going forward when the governor might not sign it.

“But I haven’t had a clear indication from the governor that he’s not going to sign it. And many in my caucus agree that we are the legislative branch; we pass bills that we think are good policy, and the governor’s not really there until the end.”

But Levy says the plan is to push forward.

“I have no plans to [postpone indefinitely] the bill,” Levy said, using legislative parlance that describes how lawmakers procedurally kill legislation.

“We still have the votes.”

Meanwhile, a competing measure that would send the question of whether to repeal the death penalty to the ballot is also on hold.

House Bill 1270, sponsored by Rep. Rhonda Fields, who supports the death penalty — two of Colorado’s three death row inmates are there for murdering her son — is an alternative to Levy’s bill.

Lawmakers heard testimony on that measure Wednesday, but also delayed a committee vote.

Fields’ bill will only move forward if Levy’s repeal measure does; so it’s on hold as well until some action is taken on H.B. 1264.

UPDATE: Bill scheduled for Tuesday, but unclear if lawmakers will vote

Friday afternoon, House Democrats added H.B. 1264 to the calendar for Tuesday’s House Judiciary Committee meeting, but it’s still uncertain whether the panel will vote on the bill.

After the long hearing this Tuesday, lawmakers won’t hear additional testimony but can amend the bill and vote either to kill the measure outright or to move it forward.

It’s unclear whether the House Democratic Caucus will hold a meeting prior to Tuesday’s scheduled hearing.

On Friday, Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, was acting as a self-proclaimed “plumber”, trying to stop leaks to the media about possible meeting times; reporters are legally allowed to attend meetings between multiple lawmakers, who would prefer to air out their issues on the death penalty proposals amongst themselves.

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