Legislative Roundup — Recent Legislative Activity as of March 14

Colorado — The Colorado legislature on March 13 transmitted to the governor SB 20-100, which would repeal the state’s death penalty. Governor Jared Polis now has ten days in which to sign or veto the bill or allow it to become law without his signature.

Alabama — The Alabama House Judiciary Committee on March 12 amended, approved, and referred to the full House a bill that would eliminate one level of state-court appeals in death penalty cases. As introduced, HB 275 would have vested exclusive jurisdiction over capital cases in the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals and eliminated discretionary review by the Alabama Supreme Court. The committee substituted for that bill one that would eliminate appeals to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals and vest exclusive jurisdiction in the Alabama Supreme Court. The substituted bill PASSED committee on March 12.

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed an identical substitute version of the bill on February 27.

Tennessee — By a voice vote, the Tennessee House Judiciary Committee on March 11 passed HB 1455, which would prohibit the death penalty for individuals with severe mental illness at the time of the offense. The bill defines severe mental illness as a documented history of schizophrenia; schizoaffective disorder; bipolar disorder with psychosis; major depressive disorder with psychosis; or delusional disorder and has symptoms of psychosis.

Delaware — Two competing death-penalty bills were introduced in the Delaware House of Representatives on March 12.

HB 299 would reinstate the death penalty for four aggravating factors: murder of three or more people, murder by someone convicted of a previous murder, murder that “was outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman,” and murders that qualify as hate crimes. It would revise the death sentencing statute to meet the standards of Hurst v. Florida and Rauf v. State.

HB 305 would amend the Delaware constitution to prohibit the death penalty. It requires a two-thirds vote of each house to pass.

Florida — Sponsors of SB 938, one of two bills to abolish the death penalty, withdrew the bill on March 14 after legislative leaders indicated it would not be considered during the 2020 legislative session.