Get ready for another Louisiana Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards two-step to try to fool voters.
HB 258 by Republican state Rep. Nick Muscarello would keep confidential information about parties involved in carrying out a capital sentence. In particular, it would shield from public records the data regarding providers of drugs pursuant to lethal injection.
Over the past several years, manufacturers and pharmacies have grown skittish over making these sales to states. Activists ignorant of or unwilling to acknowledge that regular executions of those sentenced to death deters violent crime and saves lives have engaged in a publicity campaign highlighting those vendors role in carrying out lethal injection, and with suppliers involved wishing to avoid a spotlight that could have a negative impact on their sales of any product, the drugs have become hard to come by. Some states have enacted similar laws to prevent this intimidation, with Louisiana officials conceding this negativity has contributed to Louisiana’s nearly decade-long moratorium on executions.
Muscarello’s bill hopes to loosen this logjam, but it would have to survive an Edwards veto. The governor cagily refuses to state a position on the issue of capital punishment, likely because he opposes it in a state where a solid majority of the public approves of it. That widespread speculation perhaps prompted him to make a comment about the bill, where he said he might support it but, naturally, added “I always reserve the right to look at [the final product] because [bills] typically get amended, they get changed and that sort of thing.”
Those weasel words can play to both sides, but actions speak louder than words. In 2014, Edwards was just one of two representatives to vote against a similar measure, HB 328. When a bill passes by a huge majority as in this case, typically legislators see it as fairly obvious and noncontroversial, so those who actually vote against such measures almost always have intense feelings against the seeming conventional wisdom.
Little suggests that Edwards in five years has changed his mind on what appeared as a strong conviction of his, so he appears to speak out of both sides of his mouth on the current bill. However, he’ll almost certainly never have to face the music regarding that.
The House committee that will deal with the bill, Administration of Criminal Justice, has a narrow majority of Republicans. In contrast to 2014, all Democrats and independent-in-name-only state Rep. Joseph Marino can be expected to vote against it should the committee hear it. A few legislative Republicans have gone rogue on the death penalty issue – state Sen. Dan Claitor most visibly with a bill to end the practice in the state – but no GOP committee member obviously stands out in sharing his view, so the bill should make it to the floor. There, the same partisan dynamics should carry it to passage.
But that’s as far as it will go. With Republican Sen. Pres. John Alario having effectively negated his own party’s advantage and turned his chamber through committee selections into a backstop for Edwards, events in the Senate will transpire to ensure the bill never reaches the governor’s desk.
Back in 2014, the Senate Judiciary B Committee amended it, watering it down to allow potentially as open records information about from where drugs used in an execution came. It subsequently foundered in conference.
Knocking it out of commission won’t prove as circumlocutive this time. Alario has stacked the three Judiciary Committees, the broad jurisdictions of which allow them to hear almost anything, in a way guaranteed to defeat anything Edwards wants. One of them has a majority of Democrats with a Democrat as chairman, another has enough Democrats plus RINO Edwards allies to carry any vote, and the third has Claitor as chairman as the swing vote on this issue.
So, once again Edwards will avoid having to reveal his true self to voters by not having to veto a bill that, if both chambers received the opportunity, normally would come to his desk. Keeping up this façade is the only strategy that gives him a chance for reelection this year.