LITTLE ROCK — Measures to change the state’s lethal injection law, limit abortions and allow people to carry guns in church were among the bills filed on Thursday, the fourth day of the legislative session.
Senate Bill 73 by Sen. Bart Hester, R-Cave Springs, would set forth specific procedures and chemicals for the state Department of Correction to use in carrying out executions. The state Supreme Court struck down the state’s lethal injection law last year, saying the Legislature "abdicated its responsibility" by giving the Department of Correction too much enforcement discretion in violation of the separation of powers doctrine.
Executions have been on hold in the state because of the ruling.
The Methods of Execution Act, which the Legislature approved in 2009, states that a death sentence is to be carried out by lethal injection using one or more chemicals "as determined in kind and amount in the discretion of the director of the Department of Correction."
The law says the chemicals could be one or more ultra short-acting barbiturates; one or more chemical paralytic agents; potassium chloride; and "any other chemical or chemicals, including but not limited to, saline solution." An attorney for prisoners who challenged the law argued last year that the law theoretically would allow any substance, even rat poison, to be used to execute prisoners.
SB73 would require the Department of Correction to use one or more of the following: sodium pentothal or sodium thiopental; pancuronium bromide; potassium chloride; or saline solution. It would remove the phrase "any other chemical or chemicals, including but not limited to," which the high court said gave the Department of Correction too much discretion.
The bill also sets forth a step-by-step procedure for carrying out executions.
"All we’re hoping to do is clarify the law to make the Supreme Court comfortable with it so we can proceed with executions again in the state," Hester said Thursday.
Department of Correction spokeswoman Dina Tyler did not immediately return a call Thursday seeking comment.
House Bill 1037 by Rep. Andy Mayberry, R-Hensley, titled The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, would ban abortion of a fetus 20 weeks old or older, the age at which the bill asserts that a fetus is capable of feeling pain, except to save the life of the mother or save her from irreversible physical impairment.
The bill also would require doctors to record information about all abortions they perform and submit the information to the Department of Health. The department would be required to release annual reports containing abortions statistics, excluding any information that would identify the women.
SB 71 by Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, would give churches the option of allowing people to carry concealed handguns in church. A similar measure that King filed in 2011 passed in the House but failed to clear a Senate committee.
HB 1035 by Rep. Denny Altes, R-Fort Smith, would allow faculty and staff members of colleges and universities who have permits to carry concealed handguns to carry their weapons on campus.
HB 1040 by Rep. Mark Biviano, R-Searcy, would create a state Public Charter School Commission that would be responsible for authorizing and overseeing charter schools. The commission’s mission would be to "expand educational opportunities and choice for all students."
Senate Joint Resolution 3 by Sen. David Burnett, D-Osceola, would, if referred to voters and passed in an election, amend the state constitution to require that members of the state Game and Fish Commission and the state Highway Commission be elected rather than appointed by the governor.
House Joint Resolution 1002 by Altes would, if referred to voters and passed in an election, amend the state constitution to allow state legislators to serve a total of no more than 14 years. Current law limits legislators to no more than three two-year terms in the House and no more than two four-year terms in the Senate.