Debating Dog Fighting. Donna Boe brought a bill two years ago and it was killed in the Jud & Rules committee on a party line vote. This year the Chair of Jud & Rules wouldn't even let Donna Boe be the lead floor sponsor or let her be listed as a co-floor sponsor on Senator Brad Little's bill. Floor sponsors are people who are assigned to present an agency or senate bill on the floor of the House for passage by our whole body of 70 members. I was assigned to floor sponsor a bill to adopt the Federal Tax Code (it actually slightly lowers state taxes) this year and will be presenting another exciting bill to adopt uniform mediation policy for attorneys in the state. I try to pick and choose what I floor sponsor. None of us is typically assigned to carry a piece of legislation we hate. Though it can be funny when that happens. Carrying a bill which was controversial in committee usually falls to the person who made the most debate in favor of it, or if the Chairman likes the bill, to the person who seems to have the best chance of getting it passed on the floor.
The dog fighting bill just passed unanimously with Rep Harwood saying he was holding his nose while clicking his mouse on the green YES button on his computer screen because the bill says dog fighting could carry a five year prison term -- not because he wants people to train dogs to tear each other apart of course. We've come that far. Pete Neilsen in committee actually relayed a story about when he was a boy and how it was typical that he might urge his dog to fight another boy's dog when they passed in the street. He was very concerned as to whether this bill would mean he would have gone to prison for that. The Prosecutors said it all rests in the word "organized" and how much anyone would agree he organized those fights. In committee Pete tells quite the stories of his boyhood. I know we all measure the law to our experience, but some do it more verbally than others. Pete must have been a wild one. Now he is renowned for outlandish questions which themselves tend to be ten times longer (and more slowly and dramatically delivered) than the answers.
Jud & Rules is my next committee this afternoon. It is tense just now because our chair is in a less than happy mood. He told Rep. Labrador, Rep. Luker & Rep. Hart and I that we need to get an AG's opinion, need to have the Courts, Department of Corrections, and the Commission on Pardons and Parole willing to state support before we will even get a hearing on our alternative sentencing bill.
So far we've got 5 of the committee's 16 members signed on a co-sponsors and many more expressing interest in seeing the bill pass. That's one of the powers of a chairman. You can hold bills in your "drawer" and never give them a hearing if you want. I suppose that is particularly appealing when you think there might be the votes in your committee to pass something you don't like.