The stage was set, Monday, for an inter-party showdown over the repeal of the death penalty.
Competing House Bills 1264 and 1270 both call for an end to the practice of executions by the state, but while 1264, sponsored by Representatives Jovan Melton and Claire Levy simply repeals the practice, 1270, sponsored by Rep. Rhonda Fields, would refer the question to the voters.
Now, there is certainly plenty of debate to be had over whether repealing the death penalty is the right thing to do, beginning with today's Judiciary Committee hearing, and I have my own strong opinions about that, but what I want to talk about is Rep. Fields and her tactics.
Two of the three people currently on death row were responsible for the death of her son, meaning she is hardly objective on this issue. But the fact is, the voters of her district knew her history and her positions when they elected her. So the fact that she has crusaded against guns and opposes ending the death penalty is no big surprise, nor do I think it is unethical for her to participate in this debate.
What is surprising, and upsetting, is that she has chosen to run a competing repeal bill rather than simply oppose Melton's.
She has said, openly and repeatedly, that she is against the repeal. But rather than debate that point, she has decided to make it about who has the right to make that policy decision. And in doing so, she is undercutting everything that democrats have been working for.
The argument on civil unions, on TABOR, and uncountable democratic positions is that the ideal form of government consists of empowered elected officials who write the laws on behalf of the voters. So when Rep. Fields says the legislature is underqualified to handle something as serious as the question of whether the government shoud be executing people, she seriously jeapordizes that message, and someone from her party really needs to tell her so.
I hope there will be a substantial debate over the death penalty, but that debate should be one with an honest opposition, not a dishonest counter-measure sponsored by someone who actually hopes her own bill will fail.