Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Juvenile Justice Bill Advances

The House, after a lengthy and often emotional debate, gave preliminary approval Friday to a bill that would take away the power of district attorneys to charge 14- and 15-year olds with crimes as adults.

Sponsor Claire Levy, D-Boulder, opened the debate by pointing out that a 1966 U.S. Supreme Court case, Kent v. United State, held that the U.S. constitution requires that a hearing be provided to a child before he or she is subjected to the possibility of adult punishment.

"The current law in Colorado is even more egregious than what the Supreme Court struck down in 1966," Levy said.

Rep. Liane "Buffie" McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, argued that HB 1208 is necessary to allow a child offender a realistic chance to be rehabilitated. "All we're asking in this very modest piece of legislation is give a child a chance to make it," McFadyen said. "This bill does nothing to change the outcome of court cases."

Rep. Anne McGihon, D-Denver, broke down in tears as she pleaded with her colleagues to pass the bill.

The bill passed on a voice vote, but Republican opponents then mounted an effort to reverse that approval. An amendment to the Committee of the Whole report aimed at blocking the bill failed on a 34-29 vote. Six Democrats voted with all but one Republican to kill the bill. They included Speaker Andrew Romanoff of Denver, Appropriations Committee chair Bernie Buescher of Grand Junction, Jerry Frangas of Denver, Sara Gagliardi of Arvada, Christine Scanlan of Dillon, and John Soper of Thornton. Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan, was the only Republican to vote against the effort to overturn the voice-vote approval of the bill.