After a lengthy debate about the death penalty, the N.C. House voted 84-33 Wednesday night to allow executions without a doctor present.
Instead, the bill would allow a broader range of medical personnel to help put inmates to death – nurses, physician assistants and paramedics.
Minutes before the vote, the House added a provision that would keep secret the names of the pharmaceutical company manufacturing the drugs used in executions. Names of pharmacists and medical personnel involved would also be private. And the amendment deletes the state’s requirement for a specific cocktail of drugs.
“This language is to protect the doctor or the pharmacist from people going there and harassing them,” said Rep. Leo Daughtry, a Smithfield Republican who sponsored the bill and the amendment.
The last-minute addition was opposed by Democrats, who said it would make it difficult to determine how effective and humane the drugs are.
“It is stunning that we are doing this tonight,” said Rep. Rick Glazier, a Fayetteville Democrat. “It will not be transparent to the public or anyone else what the cocktail is that is used to execute.”
Glazier said that given U.S. Supreme Court action on the issue, the provision would likely prompt lawsuits. “If this passes, they are certainly delaying future executions in this state for a very long time,” he said.
The change would come as botched executions in other states have raised questions about whether lethal injection drugs are causing condemned prisoners to suffer as they die.
The state last executed an inmate in 2006.
The House briefly debated a Democratic-sponsored amendment to end the death penalty here, but the amendment was dropped before it got a vote as the sponsor said it was the wrong time to push the issue.
Republicans said that North Carolina’s death penalty process is too complicated, leading some death row inmates to stay there for decades.
“Because of the pure bureaucracy, they simply continue to stay in prison,” House Speaker Tim Moore said. “When a court hands down a decision, particularly one in the matter of life and death, that decision ought to be carried out.”
The death penalty bill now heads to the Senate.
In other action Wednesday as a major legislative deadline loomed:
Lions and tigers: A bill that would prevent private citizens in North Carolina from keeping a lion or tiger in their backyard cleared a House committee Wednesday, but those opposed say it has unintended consequences legislators failed to consider.
House Bill 554 would make it illegal for members of the public to possess, sell, transfer or breed dangerous wild animals – defined as gray wolves, all feline species except domesticated cats, and all species of hyena, aardwolf, bear and primates.
The bill would also forbid the public from direct physical contact with a dangerous wild animal regardless of its age.
Bill sponsor Rep. Chuck McGrady, a Republican from Henderson County, said he has addressed the concerns brought to him thus far by groups that keep the animals.
New drugs: A House committee voted Wednesday to add more recreational drugs to the state’s list of illegal substances – an effort to keep pace with drug users who are finding new ways to get high.
House Bill 341 addresses drug compounds known as NBOMe (or N-Bombs) – powerful hallucinogens similar to LSD. The bill also would strengthen drug laws to include bath salts and synthetic marijuana products.
Looser gun laws: A bill that would loosen gun laws in North Carolina got a longer lease on life Wednesday night, when an N.C. House committee voted to add a $20,000 appropriation to the measure.
That means the gun proposal is now a fiscal bill and can get a House vote later this year.
Charlotte Republican Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer, one of the bill’s main proponents, has said it is an attempt to protect Second Amendment rights in North Carolina. But gun control advocates have strongly opposed the bill, which North Carolinians Against Gun Violence called “this year’s worst gun legislation” on Wednesday.
Schaffer said giving the bill more time will let sponsors nail down language around background check requirements.
Motorcycle helmets: A state House committee rejected a bill Wednesday that would have repealed North Carolina’s mandatory helmet law for motorcycle riders.
House Bill 142 failed in a voice vote in the House Rules, Calendar and Operations committee. Sponsor Rep. John Torbett, a Gaston County Republican, said the bill would let riders have the freedom to decide. But several insurance and doctors’ group representatives spoke against the bill.
Historic preservation incentives: Counties and municipalities could create their own incentive programs for historic preservation under a bill that unanimously passed the Senate Wednesday. Senate Bill 472 would allow counties, cities and towns to issue grants or loans – funded by property taxes – to public and private property owners seeking to restore historic buildings.
Political activity: A bill to limit teachers and school employees from political activity on the job passed the Senate in a 47-2 vote. Employees could still be politically active when they’re not at work.