Thursday, January 25, 2007

There's as much confusion at the legislature as there is in the courts over the death penalty. A Wake County judge halted executions until the Governor, Attorney General, and/or Council of State can figure out how an execution moves forward without a doctor. This comes after the state medical board approved a policy last week essentially forbidding doctors to take part in executions. Very few know how state leaders will respond to all of this. Speculation is much more prevalent than facts at this point.

Lawmakers are no less confused and vary greatly on opinions. Wednesday 30 lawmakers sent a letter to the Governor telling him to stop executions because of a question of pain during the lethal injection. None of the lawmakers believe that letter had an impact at what's happened since, but there's different motives even among lawmakers. Some want a permanent stop to executions based on the court ruling, others want to use it as a tool to pass a two year moratorium to study the issue, and others (mainly Republicans) want to amend the law to say a doctor isn't even necessary to perform an execution. Throughout all of this one key fact has been missing. What in the world does a doctor do at North Carolina executions. No has truly said what their current role is in detail and prison officials will not disclose that information.

At the least, expect a flurry of legislation and plenty of debate now in committee rooms on Jones Street.

On another note, newly elected House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman told me today he plans to file a bill to ban smoking in public places within two to three weeks. Local communities want the option to ban it, but Holliman told me he has enough votes to get the statewide ban passed (at least in the House). Bars who have less than 20% in food sales would be exempt. What a difference a couple years can make! A tobacco buyout and the report about second hand smoke last year definitely are making this possible. Stay tuned!

House members put on a good show of bi-partisanship and feel good moments Wednesday but behind the scenes many lawmakers and lobbyists are still nervous and won't truly believe it until they see it months from now. Many observers believe the love fest will continue for several weeks but the big test will be when permanent rules are put in place and budget talks begin.

Both chambers are now in recess until Monday night.


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