AP reports via CBS4:
Colorado’s debate over repealing the death penalty will stay on hold, for now, after a state House committee decided Wednesday to delay a ballot measure on doing away with the punishment.
The ballot-measure suggestion was the second Democratic death-penalty proposal in as many days to go on ice. On Tuesday, an outright repeal was delayed by a separate committee after nine hours of emotional testimony on both sides.
The sponsor of the death-penalty ballot question, Rep. Rhonda Fields, is a supporter who proposed the ballot measure because she supports the death penalty and believes voters would decide to keep it…
As the Denver Post's Kurtis Lee reported yesterday, Gov. John Hickenlooper has more or less delivered a veto threat over House Bill 1264, the legislation sponsored by Reps. Jovan Melton and Claire Levy to outright repeal the death penalty in Colorado. Rep. Rhonda Fields, whose son was murdered in a witness intimidation plot that resulted in two men on Colorado's death row, is a steadfast proponent of retaining it as an option.
It should be noted that House Bill 1264 has also been sponsored by Republican Rep. Kevin Priola, who claims to be acting out of conscience in reflection of the Catholic Church's position against capital punishment. We haven't checked to see how Priola voted on this issue previously, but we don't remember him speaking up when the death penalty was debated in 2009.
In any event, the situation creates some interesting dynamics. Rep. Fields, who has been vilified and threatened during the debate over gun safety legislation she sponsored, is now the ally of conservatives who want to keep the death penalty. Her bill to put the question before voters, House Bill 1270, creates an "out" for wavering Democrats on the repeal bill, which is now further jeopardized by Gov. Hickenlooper's veto threat. Of course, if the repeal bill dies, it's quite possible Rep. Fields would not let her measure go forward, unless a deal was struck to do that. Rep. Fields believes that a death penalty repeal would fail with voters, though opinion on that is not unanimous.
The debate over repealing the death penalty this year is taking place against a backdrop of an impressive list of pent-up wins for Democrats after two years of GOP control stymied all but the least controversial pieces of legislation. We've spoken even with some death penalty opponents who are concerned about the issue being lost, or even intentionally sacrificed, to better position Democrats politically on everything else they've accomplished.
With philosophical and strategic implications, this mostly intra-majority debate is one to watch.