by Frank Knaack, Director of Public Policy and Communications
Wow.  Today the House of Delegates rejected legislation that would have created secret, experimental executions.  This is a huge victory for advocates for transparent and accountable government!
Here’s what the bill proposed.  Senate Bill 1393 (Sen. Saslaw) would have allowed the Department of Corrections to contract with compounding pharmacies to make up drugs for use in lethal injection.  In addition, it would have exempted from public disclosure laws the manufacturer of and the materials and components used to create the drugs.  The bill was part of Governor McAuliffe’s legislative package and was actively lobbied by the Department of Corrections and the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security.
Fortunately, a bipartisan group of Delegates said no!  As Delegate Rick Morris stated, “[t]he people ought to know how the government does its business."  It’s unreal that this bill was filed, let alone made it to the House floor.  By prohibiting the public from knowing anything about the lethal injection drug source, materials, or components, the legislation would have made the lethal injection process almost entirely secret and subject to the unsupervised whim of the Director of the Department of Corrections.  This level of secrecy and unchecked government authority is unacceptable, particularly when we’re talking about the awesome power of the government to kill in our name.
We are grateful to those members of the House of Delegates who took a principled stand today for transparency and accountability in government, despite attempts by the bill’s proponents to paint this as a vote on the death penalty itself.  We thank the majority of Delegates for recognizing that transparency and accountability are necessary to democracy, not just buzzwords that you cast aside cavalierly in an election year.
Whether you oppose the death penalty, as we do, or support its continued use, government in the sunshine is nowhere more important than where it involves the exercise of the government’s ultimate power over a person’s life.
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