Legislative Roundup — Recent Legislative Activity as of March 7

Washington — A bill that would formally remove Washington’s judicially abolished death penalty from the state’s statute books has failed. SB 5339, which passed the state senate on January 31 and was approved by the House Committee on Public Safety on February 27, did not come up for a vote on the floor of the state House of Representatives by the March 7 deadline for consideration during the 2020 legislative session. The failure has no effect on the judicial abolition of the state’s death penalty in 2018. It was the second consecutive year in which legislative efforts to repeal the state’s unconstitutional death-penalty law failed to receive a vote in the full House.

Virginia — The Virginia House of Delegates voted 53-45 on March 3 to approve legislation that would make public the identity of any entity that provides the commonwealth with drugs for use in executions. Under the proposal, “the identity of any outsourcing facility that enters into a contract with the Department for the compounding of drugs necessary to carry out an execution by lethal injection … shall not be confidential” and would be subject to discovery in civil litigation and under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. By a vote of 22-17, the Virginia State Senate completed legislative passage of the bill, agreeing to amendments passed in the state House. The bill now advances to the governor, who has seven days to sign it, veto it, or offer amendments.

South Carolina — The South Carolina House Judiciary Committee on March 3 approved a bill to make electrocution the state’s default method of execution if lethal injection drugs are unavailable. SB 176 passed the state senate by a vote of 26-13 on January 30, 2019. The House committee rejected an amendment to make the bill apply only to future death sentences before voting to approve the bill.

Missouri — The Missouri House Special Committee on Criminal Justice conducted public hearings on two death-penalty bills on March 5.

HB 1756 would bar the death penalty for defendants with severe mental illness at the time of the offense. HB 1925 would require that a life sentence be imposed if the sentencing jury does not unanimously agree to a death sentence, repealing a provision that treated a non-unanimous vote as a hung jury and allowed the trial judge to determine the sentence.