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Maryland Politics
Posted at 08:50 AM ET, 12/20/2011

O’Malley weighs budget restriction on death penalty

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), a long-time death penalty opponent, in recent months has considered using the state budget to block executions in the coming fiscal year.


Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) gives an interview to the State House press corps on the last day of the 2011 legislative session in April. (AP Photo/Barbara Haddock Taylor, Pool)
The “idea of defunding executions” was discussed in a July meeting that included O’Malley and Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg (D-Baltimore), a leading death penalty foe in the legislature, according to O’Malley’s scheduling records.

In an interview, Rosenberg confirmed the meeting took place and said he and the governor had a “positive discussion” about the concept, which would apparently prevent the state from carrying out executions due to budget restrictions.

Rosenberg said O’Malley made no commitments at the time, and on Monday night, an O’Malley aide said the the governor remains unconvinced he should take that approach.

“It’s not likely that the governor will do that, but no final decision has been made,” said O’Malley spokeswoman Raquel Guillory.

O’Malley, who must present a budget proposal to the General Assembly next month, unsuccessfully lobbied the legislature to repeal the death penalty during his first term. In 2009, lawmakers instead passed a bill tightening evidentiary standards in capital cases.

House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell (R-Calvert) said a budget provision on the death penalty would be unacceptable.

O’Donnell compared the idea to efforts in Congress to undermine President Obama’s health care law by refusing to fund its key provisions. O’Donnell said he couldn’t imagine O’Malley would approve of such a tactic in Congress and should only pursue straight-up measures to alter the state’s death penalty law.

Maryland has had a de facto moratorium on executions since shortly before O’Malley took office in 2007, and it is unclear how much longer it might continue.

In late 2006, Maryland’s highest court ruled that the state’s procedures for lethal injections had not been properly adopted and halted scheduled executions. Efforts since then by the O’Malley administration to craft new rules have been delayed several times.

The most recent setback came after the manufacturer of one the three drugs used in Maryland’s lethal injection procedures announced it was halting production of the drug.

A spokesman for the state corrections department said officials there are continuing to work on an alternative. Any new regulations will be subject to a review by a legislative panel, which is co-chaired by two lawmakers opposed to capital punishment.

Rosenberg and other death-penalty opponents are planning another push for repeal in the coming session, but they could be short of the votes needed in a key Senate committee to advance the measure to the full body. This year’s bill is expected to include funding for the families of murder victims.

A budget provision would not be subject to the scrutiny of the same Senate committee skeptical of the repeal legislation.

By  |  08:50 AM ET, 12/20/2011

 
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