Louisiana corrections officials may soon find it easier to get lethal injection drugs, as a bill to make such acquisitions secret moves forward.
The House and Governmental Affairs Committee endorsed legislation Tuesday meant to shield parties that make, supply and compound drugs used for lethal injections. The proposal now goes to the full House chamber for consideration.
Supporters claim the bill would end the state’s years-long shortage of the drugs, which has effectively put capital punishment on hold.
“We’re putting people on death row, but we’re not doing anything to close it out,” Rep. Nicholas Muscarello (R-Hammond) told BRProud.com.
Lethal injection is the only legal form of execution in Louisiana. The state has not performed an execution since 2010.
Few pharmaceutical companies have wanted to do business with states that keep execution information public, as executives do not want their brands tied to enabling lethal injections.
Critics of Muscarello’s bill fear the legislation would only keep the public in the dark, especially in the event of a botched execution.
“At the end of the day, somebody needs to be accountable if something was supplied wrong,” Rep. Sem Jenkins (D-Shreveport) told House members.
“Transparency is essential for democracy,” said Sister Alison McCrary, a Catholic nun and attorney with Sisters for Christian Community. “It’s essential for Louisiana to know what’s happening in our name.”
About a dozen states have similar secrecy laws on the books. Muscarello anticipates little challenge on his bill, citing the Legislature’s recent votes on the death penalty. Measures to end the practice have met insufficient support in recent years, most recently Tuesday on the Senate floor.
“At this point, we have it on the books,” Muscarello said of the death penalty. “I’m just looking to give families of the victims some closure.”
Gov. John Bel Edwards has said if a bill like the Hammond Republican’s were to hit his desk, he would sign it. The Democratic governor has yet to take a public stance on capital punishment.