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Idaho’s execution secrecy bill is dead -- at least for now

Idaho’s execution secrecy bill is dead -- at least for now

Dustin Hurst
February 3, 2015
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February 3, 2015

Idaho lawmakers will not hear a state-sponsored bill to bring more secrecy to executions due to concerns about the measure’s language, IdahoReporter.com learned Monday.

Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, said he plans to use his privilege as chair of the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee to hold the bill -- effectively killing it for now.

“There were some concerns about the language,” Hagedorn said. “There’s more homework to be done on the issue.”

The measure, officially Senate Bill 1005, would have shielded from public disclosure the names of companies that provide execution chemicals to the state. The bill also would have allowed the Idaho Department of Correction the authority and power to hide “any information” that would prevent the state from carrying out executions.

Idaho administrative rules, regulations with less force than law but plenty of power, already block reporters and residents from garnering access to the names of executive chemical companies, Jeff Ray, the agency’s spokesman, told IdahoReporter.com last week.

Still, the agency sought to embed the protections into law to give them additional weight and strength.

Though Hagedorn’s move takes the plan off the table for now, it could come back before lawmakers finish business this year. The Meridian senator asked the department to try again after changing the bill to account for lawmakers’ concerns about overly broad wording.

Plus, Hagedorn won’t hold the gavel of the committee for the session’s duration. Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, is the panel chair, but she hasn’t been around the Capitol for unspecified reasons.

Hagedorn said Lodge will have the right to bring back the legislation if she so desires upon her return.

If the proposal -- in original form or modified -- returns, it will face serious scrutiny. Unlikely allies raised concerns about the measure before Hagedorn shut it down. The American Civil Liberties Union, the Idaho Freedom Foundation and Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty each criticized the bill’s open-ended language, as well as the state’s desire to hide even more execution information from Idahoans.

Kathy Griesmyer, the ACLU’s government relations coordinator, told IdahoReporter.com on Monday her organization is excited the bill met a difficult roadblock.

“We are happy to hear the chair of the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee along with the Department of Correction are rethinking their recently introduced bill that would limit transparency of Idaho’s death penalty policy,” she wrote in an email. “The public has a right to know what is being done in their name.”

Griesmyer added that the state should promote accountability, not remove it.

“That means all aspects of the death penalty -- including qualifications of personnel involved, procedures, and lethal substances used -- need to remain open and accessible to the public so that if an error were to be made, there is a mechanism in place to hold those accountable responsible,” Griesmyer said.

Jeff Ray, the agency's spokesman, said the department is willing participant in reworking the bill. "We asked Sen. Hagedorn to hold the bill so we could review the language further," Ray said.

"We had some stakeholders raise potential concerns about the language being broader in scope than intended. If we decide to bring the issue back this session, we'll offer it as a new RS (routing slip or not-yet-introduced bill)."

National limited-government website Reason.com highlighted the proposal just days ago, pointing out the the bill’s troubling aspect. “The lack of transparency regarding executions and the provenance of the drugs used in lethal injection ‘cocktails’ has been a growing concern over the past year, following a string of gruesomely botched executions,” the publication’s Anthony L. Fisher wrote.

Note: The Idaho Freedom Foundation publishes IdahoReporter.com.

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