Amy Sinclair

After a short and somber debate, a Senate committee tonight has advanced a priority from what Governor Kim Reynolds has called her “Second Chance” agenda — a proposed constitutional amendment to automatically restore a released felon’s voting rights.

Senator Amy Sinclair, a Republican from Allerton, said she believes in second chances, but she urged her colleagues to vote against the proposal.

“While forgiveness is admirable, can the debt to our society ever truly be repaid by a prison sentence when a life has been taken, or a child’s innocence be stolen, when sexual brutality is allowed?” Sinclair asked.

Sinclair’s passionate speech began with a reference to her “personal experiences” as a crime victim.

“Consider the victims who can never be fully repaid,” Sinclair said, “the families of those who people whose lives were snuffed out by violent felons.”

Senator Tony Bisignano, a Democrat from Des Moines, began speaking a few moments later and started with condolences to Sinclair, followed by an argument for giving paroled felons the right to vote.

“What we’re trying to do is not create outliers where they’re not connected back to the community,” Bisignano said.

Bisignano emphasized that the proposal will be of benefit to a group of felons sent to prison for drug and property crimes.

“We need to do this for a lot of innocent young people who just screwed up from 18 to 25,” he said.

Bisignano and the other Democrats on the committee supported the governor’s plan. Four Republicans, including Sinclair, opposed it. The proposed constitutional amendment is now eligible for debate in the full senate next week.