- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 24, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A bill to help Arkansas restart executions after nearly 10 years without them advanced from a House panel Tuesday, less than a week after the state’s high court ruled in favor of a previous lethal injection law.

The Judiciary Committee in a voice vote advanced a bill to allow the Department of Correction to either use the existing procedure or a combination of three drugs for executions. It could be heard by the full House as early as Wednesday.

“We want to do it appropriately, with dignity of the government and with all solemnity,” said sponsor Rep. Douglas House, R-North Little Rock. “It’s a very unpleasant task but it’s one that’s entrusted to government and we have to do it.”

The Arkansas Supreme Court last week ruled the state’s 2013 lethal injection law is constitutional. The state hasn’t executed anyone since 2005, and has 33 inmates on death row.

Arkansas currently allows for the use of a single barbiturate in executions but would adopt a protocol similar to neighboring Oklahoma by using the sedative midazolam. A sedated inmate would then be given a paralytic followed by a drug to stop the heart under the proposal.

The legality of the three-drug method is pending a U.S. Supreme Court case. Justices in January put Oklahoma’s executions on hold after inmates argued the midazolam might not sufficiently mask pain as their hearts and lungs shut down. The case will be argued before the court in April and decided by late June.

The department would also be barred from releasing who makes or supplies the drugs. The bill allows the state to obtain drugs from a facility registered with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or a nationally accredited compounding pharmacy.

House said shielding the information would help the state obtain the drugs by protecting suppliers from potential backlash.

A lawmaker who wanted to restart executions in the state via firing squads says she backs House’s bill and isn’t planning to pursue her own this session. Republican Rep. Rebecca Petty of Rogers, whose daughter was murdered in 1999 by a man now on death row, said she is hopeful the bill, if passed, will soon allow executions to resume.

“It was a problem in Arkansas that was very broken and this is just another piece of the puzzle to fix the problem,” Petty said.


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