2023 Legislative Update #4

The fourth week of the legislative session was marked by little movement on the bills that have been identified as priorities by Liberty and Justice Coalition (LJC). In the past week, no new bills of concern were introduced. This is encouraging, considering that Wednesday, February 16 is the last day for the introduction of new bills. Although much mischief can be achieved in these four legislative days, we remain hopeful in running out that particular clock. The last day of the legislative session is March 18, which allows less than five weeks for action on all remaining legislation. Currently there are 402 bills before the House and 428 before the Senate. This huge number of bills may allow some bills of concern to LJC to get lost in the clutter.

SB 399 – Solitary Confinement Limits

LJC is currently reviewing SB 399, which addresses the use of solitary confinement. If passed, the effect of the bill will be to limit the number of inmates subjected to “restricted housing”, as well as the duration of these conditions of confinement. The bill specifically prohibits inmates who belong to a “vulnerable population”, which specifically includes LGBTQ identification, from being placed in restrictive housing. LJC views this as a positive step. SB 399 has not been scheduled for consideration by the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee (SHPAC).

HB 128 – Chemical Castration

This bill to require chemical castration of some state parolees who were convicted of enumerated sex crimes has yet to be heard by the House Health & Human Services Committee (HHHC), and does not appear on that committee’s schedule. LJC is in strong opposition to this bill.

SB 82 – Statute of Limitations

SB 82, eliminates the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution of certain sex crimes. This bill is currently before the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) but is yet to be scheduled for consideration. SB 126 – civil statute of limitations – was sent to the SJC with a “do pass” recommendation from the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee (SHPAC). This has yet to be scheduled for consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

SB 123 – Pre-trial Detention Reform

This bill was scheduled for consideration by the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committed on 2/13/2023. We do not have any information on the current status of the legislation.

SB 174 – Pretrial Release Hearing Standards

On February 7, the SHPAC rendered a “Do Not Pass” recommendation for SB 174. A substitute bill was given a “Do Pass” recommendation and referred to the SJC, where it has yet to be scheduled. The original SB 174 applied a rebuttable presumption in favor of detention for an enumerated list of crimes, which the substitute bill removes. As passed by the committee, the rebuttable presumption would apply to all felony accusations where the accused:

  • has been released on his own recognizance for a prior felony offense, or
  • is currently on conditions of release in any other pending felony matter.

LJC believes any rebuttable presumption in favor of pretrial detention is contrary to the Constitution in that the presumption of innocence is removed, and the burden of proof is shifted from the government to the defendant.

Section 1(A) of SB 174 states, “a court shall not excuse a defendant from posting bail unless the defendant motions for a hearing in which the defendant proves that the defendant lacks the financial means necessary to post bail.” Although a requirement for imposing bail is troubling in itself, a black-letter reading indicates this mandatory bail requirement attaches to all misdemeanors and felonies. Since bail schedules vary across the state, mandating bail would result in vastly unequal outcomes based solely on the nature of the accusation. This is particularly true for certain sex crimes where some counties will likely allow no bail at all.

HB 58 – Three Strikes

HB 58 was considered and “tabled” by the House Consumer & Public Affairs Committee (HCPAC). This action does not preclude reconsideration by that committee but makes it much less likely. LJC considers this to be a very positive outcome.

SB 215 – Establish Crime of Bestiality

SB 215 is currently before the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee (SHPAC). As stated in Legislative Update #2, LJC does not object strongly to creating the crime of bestiality, but it sees no public safety benefit of requiring listing on the sex offense registry. SB 215 is scheduled for consideration by the SHPAC on Friday, February 17 at 1:30 PM.

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