The reading of a bill designed to create mandatory minimum sentences for those convicted of crimes against children advanced Monday in the House, but not before some heated debate between Democrats and Republicans over how closely it hewed to ground-breaking legislation in Florida…
Both bills were heard in the House's State Affairs committee two weeks ago, with the Democratic-controlled group killing Szabo's bill while moving Foote's.
Szabo sought to mirror the Florida law, which includes a 25-year minimum sentence for offenders over the age of 18 as well as a provision that if the person were released early on parole, he or she would have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. Foote's bill would stagger sentences that range from 10 to 48 years based on the seriousness of the crime and if it's ruled a class 1, 2 or 3 felony.
The Democrats accused the Republicans of trying to "cut and paste" the Florida law onto the Colorado statutes, adding that Foote's proposed legislation has the support of Lunsford's family. [Pols emphasis]
The passage of a so-called "Jessica's Law," mandating long sentences for sex crimes against children this year, came after a disgusting episode in the last legislative session, where Rep. Libby Szabo, the bill's primary sponsor, accused Democratic House Speaker Mark Ferrandino of "obviously protecting someone" after the 2013 bill died in a House committee. In reality, stakeholders including the Colorado District Attorneys' Council, and victim's advocates like the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault opposed Szabo's bill because Colorado already has very tough sentencing for perpetrators of sex crimes against children. The approach favored by Democrats this year, and still supported by advocates for "Jessica's Law," acknowledges the tough status quo and further strengthens sentencing–within a framework that attempts to make the punishment fit the crime.
But that wasn't enough for Szabo today, who warned darkly:
LIBBY SZABO: Colleagues, that's what I think it's our duty to do. That's what I think our oath of office asked us to do. To protect those children from their enemies foreign and domestic.
Sorry Rep. Szabo, but a Colorado state legislator's oath of office does not include anything about "enemies foreign and domestic." That's the congressional oath of office. Setting that aside…doesn't this strident rhetoric apply to Rep. Szabo? The reason we're asking is, just a few days ago, Rep. Szabo was one of only three legislators to vote against Senate Bill 14-059. This is a simple bill to eliminate the statute of limitations with regard to crimes committed along with sex crimes. The bill had numerous Republican co-sponsors, including Sens. Bill Cadman, Larry Crowder, and Steve King. Defense attorneys are not in favor of this bill any more than they support "Jessica's Law," but it would undeniably have the effect of toughening sentences against sex offenders–something we assume Szabo would always support.
Folks, we think the question is obvious: who is Libby Szabo "protecting?" Why else would she have voted against this bill to eliminate the statute of limitations for crimes committed along with sex offenses? The only other possibility that makes sense is if she voted "no" on this bill by mistake.
At the very least, can someone explain to us why Szabo might be entitled to the benefit of the doubt where Ferrandino was not? We suggest readers think about their answer more than Szabo thought about hers, lest ugly stereotypes enter the discussion.