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You've got to admit it was a legislative masterstroke. As a House-passed bill to end capital punishment in Colorado and use the approximately $900,000 in savings to investigate so-called "cold cases" neared a Senate vote, opponents led by Democratic senator John Morse and Republican senator Josh Penry came up with a compromise: Keep the death penalty and finance a cold-case team via an additional $2.50 surcharge on those convicted of a crime. There's another vote today, and supporters of the original bill, such as Senator Morgan Carroll, are on their heels.
There's more than a little irony in the willingness of so many senators from both parties to invent a new tax only days after Governor Bill Ritter signed into law a budget measure that cut back on spending in a major way -- all to save a program that's enormously expensive, exceedingly wasteful and largely ineffective as a deterrent to society's worst offenses. (For more on the latter, read Alan Prendergast's April blog "Is the Death Penalty Worse Than Life in the Hole?") By doing so, they've inoculated themselves against the prospect of future opponents branding them as soft on crime, as opposed to being soft on logic, or soft on making tough decisions. Instead, they've given a forward-looking proposal what's probably a lethal injection. Welcome back, politics as usual.