As the days grow longer, thoughts turn to the end of the session. It’s harder to stay indoors, and participants find their minds wandering during meetings. We’re not talking about the end of a college semester; we’re talking about the fast-approaching end of the 2017 legislative session.
When legislators first arrived on January 2nd, the weather outside was dark, cold and snowy. Sitting in meetings drinking coffee and watching the snow fall was easy. Now everything’s changed. It’s April. The snow’s gone. The grass is greening up, and the days are a lot longer. To make matters worse, many legislators find themselves with nothing to do. Many committees have finished their work, the number of bills is shrinking fast, and legislators find themselves longing for home. No one knows when the final day will be, but the talk of adjournment before the Easter break on April 14th is becoming more prevalent. If they manage to get out of here that early, it would be one for the record books, but stranger things have happened.
We’re down to just a handful of bills still in play. At this point, we’re still pushing the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, the ban on abortions of viable fetuses, and the Personhood Amendment. The Charter School Bill is on life support, and we’re working hard to kill a last-minute bill that would do away with marriage licenses.
The ban on aborting unborn children once they reach the point where they can feel pain was heard yesterday in House Judiciary. It passed out of the Senate on a party-line vote, and we’re expecting a similar outcome in the House. Hopefully, it will hit the House floor Friday or Saturday. The viable fetus bill passed second reading in the House yesterday after a long and contentious floor debate. The vote was 60 to 40 with all Republicans voting “yes,” joined by Democrat Jonathan Windy Boy of Box Elder.
Legislators have a habit of talking contentious bills to death as a means of posturing and scoring brownie points with certain advocacy groups, and that was the case with this bill. House rules allow for cloture after 30 minutes to cut off debate and keep the process moving forward. The first motion for cloture came at about 35 minutes and failed by three votes. Debate continued for another 10 minutes until the motion for cloture was again made, and this time, passed by two votes. The bill was amended by the House, so it heads back to the Senate, and possibly, to a conference committee before it heads to the Governor.
The Personhood Amendment is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. It passed the House with 59 votes, so as a Constitutional Amendment, it needs 41 votes in the Senate. Republicans control the Senate by 32 votes, so if every Republican votes “yes,” it still requires 9 Democrats to jump on board.
And finally, we were at the Capitol ‘til nearly 6:00 p.m. yesterday arguing against Senate Bill 375, the bill to do away with marriage licenses. As I told the committee, this bill is too much, too fast and on too important an issue to be decided in the closing days of a session. We’re worried about unintended consequences that might hurt marriage, so we asked the committee to vote “no” until they can study the issue. Marriage is SO important it seems like the prudent thing to do.