My next committee meeting was Banking and Insurance where we debated a total of 6 bills. Most of these bills originated from the Insurance Commissioner. One, dealing with auto insurers ability to raise rates, was carried over.
At 1300 I presented two bills to the Senate Judiciary Committee. These bills were the subject of a Joint House/Senate Judiciary Committee public hearing yesterday so there was little surprise in the debate as reported here. The first bill up was SB193. This bill expands the enumerated capital offense sections to include murder of someone on a school campus, in a day care or under a protective order from a court. This bill passed unanimously with minimal debate. The next bill up was SB194, also known as the Fair Justice Act and addresses the appeals process of capital murder offenses and caused some debate....mostly civil. This is not a matter of whether of not someone supports the death penalty, rather this is about the lengthy appeals process – on average 16 years and growing – for the sentencing to be appealed. These excessive delays only serve to prolong justice being carried out. I was especially thankful for the courageous testimony presented at yesterday’s public hearing by victim’s families. The bill passed in a 7 -1-1 vote, with one Democrat voting No and one abstaining. The bill will now move to the floor of the Senate for a full debate.
At 1400 I chaired the first Veteran’s and Military Affairs Committee meeting of the 2014 Session. We debated a total of 6 bills supporting veterans and our military communities around the state. Of note the committee continued to support legislation removing what I call the “Combat Requirement” for some Veteran educational benefits. Under current law, a requirement exists for the service of the veteran to have been during wartime or extrahazardous conditions in order to qualify. The Department of Veterans' Affairs has in the past provided benefits to dependents of any veteran based on any service, but starting in January of 2011 began providing benefits only to dependents of veterans who served during certain designated conflict periods. It is our goal to have these benefits returned to pre-2011 qualification standards. SB85 passed committee with unanimous support and will now move to the Senate floor.
The Senate went into session at 1500 and after some administrative matters proceeded to Senate Confirmations for various Boards and Commissions. We later moved into floor debate of SB11. This bill deals with the Legislative Council – the body that guides the legislative staff, budgets, hiring, etc of the House and Senate. In general, this bill serves to streamline and increase efficiency of the legislative branch of government. The bill was debated for several hours with several amendments added. In all fairness at first this debate was not of a filibuster nature but rather due to the seismic shift in how things have been done for so many years. However in the final hour the filibuster emerged forcing the first cloture vote of the 2014 session. Of note, this bill is not new; it was drafted and worked through the process last year but failed to make it to the floor in the final hours of the 2013 session.
The Senate adjourned for the evening a little after 2000...making for a 13 hour day at the State House. I have a Commerce, Transportation and Utilities (CTU) meeting at 0900 tomorrow and the Senate will go back into session at 1000. On the plus side, tonight will be an easy night reading bills as we only have 3 bills in CTU tomorrow!
Semper Fi - Bill