Legislative Roundup: April 18, 2019 edition

Updates drawn from the Political Report newsletter. Find out more on our legislative roundup page.

New Hampshire legislature adopts death penalty abolition, Colorado House votes to expand voting rights, and more

New Hampshire: The legislature has adopted a bill abolishing the death penalty for the second consecutive year, but this time with veto-proof majorities. The Senate sent it to Governor John Sununu’s desk last week. While Sununu is expected to veto it again, the votes are there for both chambers to override this. The Political Report wrote in November about this legislation and why advocates deem it important even though the state has not executed anyone since 1939. In addition, legislation to abolish the death penalty is still moving forward in Washington State. It made it out of committee in its second chamber earlier in April.

Colorado and Nevada: Two legislatures are moving to enfranchise anyone who is not presently incarcerated.

  • The Colorado House adopted legislation to enfranchise people on parole; the state already enables people on probation (let alone those who have finished their sentence) to exercise their voting rights. House Bill 1266, filed by Representative Leslie Herod and Senator Stephen Fenberg, moved to the Senate. It would affect an estimated 10,000 people.
  • A Nevada bill newly proposed by Speaker James Frierson gets to the same point through a bigger jump: Nevada has some of the country’s harshest laws, the Political Report wrote in December: It is one of 12 states where people remain disenfranchised after completing their sentence. Assembly Bill 431 would restore the voting rights of an estimated 89,000 people.

Neither bill would abolish disenfranchisement as in Maine, Vermont, and Puerto Rico. Other bills elsewhere in the country propose doing so.

New Mexico: New Mexico adopted a new law last month to restrict solitary confinement. The state has one of the country’s highest rates of solitary confinement, a practice that is tied to widespread deaths in the state’s carceral system, as Kira Lerner reported in The Appeal in January. The law bans putting pregnant women and minors in solitary confinement. It also restricts its use to 48 hours for people with “serious” mental disabilities. However, the original bill introduced in January went further: It restricted putting anyone in solitary confinement for more than 15 consecutive days. This would respect the United Nations’ “Nelson Mandela Rules,” which prohibit its use for longer than that. (Colorado’s Department of Corrections announced it would follow those rules in 2017.) Legislative leaders removed this language on the House floor.

Utah: The governor has signed into law the state’s “Clean Slate” legislation, which the Political Report wrote about in March. This law will create an automatic process to expunge the records of Utahns who have been acquitted or convicted of some misdemeanor offenses. Currently, most people who are eligible for an expungement do not apply because of the cost and complexity.