In a rare parliamentary move that sent a message to death penalty opponents, minority Republicans on the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday voted against allowing a measure repealing capital punishment to move forward for a public hearing.
The maneuver failed, but the vote sets the scene for contentious debates in committee and eventually the floors of the House and Senate on the proposed repeal, which is supported by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, D-New Haven, the Legislature's major proponent of the repeal, said after the committee meeting that he was "a little disappointed" some members voted to kill it in committee.
"I have voted for bills that I just flat do not like," Holder-Winfield said in an interview. "I think almost everything we bring here deserves consideration, and that's all that this process is about. When you're a legislator and you don't want to have the discussion, you should really consider what you're doing here."
Holder-Winfield said he expects repeal opponents this year to use a variety of tactics to kill the legislation. "In some respects that is their job, but the other thing you have to weigh is what your real job here is and that is to represent everyone in the state," he said.
Voting to "raise" a bill basically allows the measure to be drafted and to receive a public hearing.
2 opponents of a repeal who approved raising the legislation, Sen. Paul Doyle, D-Wethersfield and Rep. Bob Godfrey, D-Danbury, said that voting to get a public hearing, or even to move the bill out of committee, should not be construed as support.
"I think this is too important for just the committee to vote on, but the House and Senate should take it up, too," Godfrey said.
But Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, said he was voting no, "just as a protest."
After the committee meeting, Rep. Gerald M. Fox III, D-Stamford, co-chairman of the panel, said the vote was a rare occurrence. "They told me they were going to, so it wasn't a surprise, and we just move forward," said Fox, a proponent of the repeal who expects to vote for it again.
The committee unanimously voted to raise 42 concepts for drafting and public hearing, but the death penalty repeal, the fourth item on the agenda, resulted in a separate, 23-15 party-line vote with seven lawmakers absent.
"I think I know where it's going, but it says here in item 4, `death penalty,' is this for the abolishment of the death penalty, or is it to speed up the death penalty?" asked Rep. Al Adinolfi, R-Cheshire, during the brief committee debate. "This is not clear," said the lawmaker, in whose district occurred the July 2007 home invasion and murders of a mother and her two daughters. "I would like somebody to clear it up for me."
(source: Danbury News Times)