Execution drugs bill revived

The source of the drugs Louisiana uses to execute death row inmates could soon be made secret under legislation still active at the State Capitol.

The state Senate, without discussion, approved House Bill 328 in a 29-7 vote Friday. Because of technical changes, it returns to the Louisiana House for final approval with just days left in the 2014 legislative session.

The measure would protect the name, address, qualifications and other identifying details of any person or entity involved in the manufacturing, compounding, prescribing, dispensing, supplying or administering of drugs or supplies used in the state’s executions. HB328 also states that those details cannot be revealed or used as evidence in any action.

Supporters argue the protection is necessary so the state can continue to carry out death sentences by lethal injection.

States in recent years have faced additional hurdles getting execution drugs because some European drugmakers have taken ethical positions against the death penalty.

A botched execution in Oklahoma earlier this month has added to scrutiny.

“This bill strictly provides that the supplier of that medication will be held in complete confidentiality,” said state Sen. Ronnie Johns, a Lake Charles Republican who presented the bill on the Senate floor.

Louisiana isn’t the only state seeking to keep the source of its execution drugs a secret.

This week, the Republican Texas attorney general said suppliers could face “real harm” if their identities are revealed, so they will be kept confidential.

Missouri’s Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster has suggested that the state could create its own lab to make execution drugs, after the shroud of secrecy over the process prompted a lawsuit from several media outlets.

Georgia’s high court ruled that those states don’t have to disclose the source of their lethal injection drugs.

Lethal injection is the only mode of execution in Louisiana. The state’s last execution was in 2010.

Opponents of legislation like HB328 — mostly anti-death penalty groups, reporters and government transparency advocates — claim that it hides information from the public.

HB328 also would allow the state to seek drugs from more sources outside Louisiana. Currently, the state can’t acquire them from sources located outside Louisiana’s borders that aren’t also licensed in Louisiana.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp. For more coverage of the Louisiana Legislature, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog .