Idaho revives bill to strengthen secrecy on enforcement drugs

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A Senate committee chairman has revived a bill that would dramatically increase the secrecy surrounding Idaho’s execution drugs, bringing the issue back for a second vote Monday after it failed last week.

With another member of the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee present, the bill passed by a 5-4 vote, going to the full Senate with a “do pass” recommendation.

Last Wednesday, the legislation died on a 4-4 tied vote. Monday’s deciding vote was cast by Senator Patti Anne Lodge, a Republican from Huston, who was absent on Wednesday.


The legislation would prohibit Idaho officials from revealing where they obtain the drugs used in lethal injections, potentially even if the courts order them to do so.

At a hearing last week, the bill drew strong opposition from criminal defense attorneys, a retired federal judge and various organizations. They argued that capital punishment requires more government transparency, not less.

On Monday, committee chairman Senator Todd Lakey said he had reviewed the “Mason’s Handbook,” the rules of procedure used by the Legislative Assembly, and decided he could bring the bill back for a second vote when the full committee is present.

He said the rules show that a tie vote is a “void” that simply maintains the status quo. The need for a new vote was urgent, the Nampa Republican said, noting that the state will fight in court to execute two death row inmates in the near future.

“If this is a problem that we’re going to solve, we need to solve it now,” Lakey said, so “the death penalty can be an appropriate sentence in Idaho.”

But Sen. Melissa Wintrow, a Democrat from Boise, and Sen. Christy Zito, a Republican from Hammett, disagreed with Lakey’s interpretation of the rules. They expressed concern about the precedent that would be set by allowing new votes on settled issues. That could lead to repeated votes, slowing down the work of the Legislative Assembly, they said.

“I was a little puzzled about that as well,” Zito said. “It seems to me that if we’re not careful, we could set a precedent if we don’t like the way something happened… I myself have had bills that have had an even vote , and that’s all.”

In testimony last week, Idaho Department of Corrections Director Josh Tewalt said potential drug suppliers want confidentiality provisions written into state law before selling the drugs. to Idaho prison officials. He said prison officials are currently unable to obtain the chemicals they need for executions.

Tewalt also said concerns that the department might use contaminated or inappropriate drugs are unfounded, saying prison officials would decide on their own not to use chemicals if there was a question about their use. relevance.

But Ronald Bush, a retired U.S. District Court judge who has presided over cases in which a convicted Idaho inmate fought the state’s execution policy, said the legislation puts in place the protections of the Eighth Amendment Against Cruel and Unusual Punishment and the General’s First Amendment Right to Free Speech. public at risk.

Bush said he was speaking as a private citizen, not as a representative of the courts. He said the Idaho Department of Corrections acted “surreptitiously” during his two most recent executions.

In one case, department officials withheld information from federal courts that they were sending a worker across state lines to purchase the deadly chemicals, using cash eight days before a scheduled execution.

The bill narrowly passed the full House last month.

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