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November 10, 2006

FAMM's view of the new political lanscape

I have discussed here and here the new (and uncertain) federal sentencing dynamics in the wake of Tuesday's election results.  Over at the website of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), Julie Stewart has this message on the topic.  Here are some highlights:

Many Democratic members of Congress with whom FAMM works were re-elected and will assume powerful leadership positions when Congress reconvenes in January.  Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) will become Chair of the House Judiciary committee, replacing sentencing reform foe Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), who orchestrated attacks on judicial discretion and sponsored the egregious “Booker-fix” bill, among many other costly and punitive sentencing bills.  Rep. Robert “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.) will become Chair of the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, which is the committee where sentencing bills begin.

The positive relationships we have built with Republican lawmakers like Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.) and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who were re-elected, will also continue.  And, of course, we will keep reaching out to more Republicans to build a broad consensus for sentencing reform, which is still necessary to win reforms.  The changing of the guard in judiciary and subcommittee leadership may be the key to opening doors for increased bipartisan collaboration on smart sentencing bills.  There seems to be growing support for cost effective, fair and proportionate sentencing laws among some Republicans and Democrats. 

H.R. 1704, the “Second Chance Act,” has bipartisan support and has already cleared the House Judiciary committee, although some of the provisions FAMM was most eager to see enacted were stripped from the bill. As previously reported, the likelihood of the Second Chance Act’s passage during the upcoming “lame-duck” session remains uncertain. But even if does fail, its broad bipartisan support will likely continue in the 110th Congress, hopefully carrying it towards final passage.

There is renewed hope for bipartisan collaboration on other sentencing reform issues: crack cocaine sentencing, broader mandatory and sentencing guideline reform and perhaps even a second look at parole.  For the first time in many years, FAMM will be able to dedicate more of our time and resources to furthering bills that can bring relief to thousands of FAMM members affected by harsh federal sentencing laws, rather than constantly battling to stop harmful legislation, like Rep. Sensenbrenner’s “Booker-fix” legislation.

November 10, 2006 at 06:27 AM | Permalink

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