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Politics & Government

Political Games Taking Shape For Death Penalty Repeal Debate

Brian Grimmett
File: Utah House Chamber

In the next 24 hours the Utah House will debate a bill to repeal the death penalty in Utah, but one lawmaker has a plan to change the bill entirely.

Last year, Republican Rep. Paul Ray was successful in bringing back the firing squad as a backup execution method for inmates on death row if lethal injection drugs aren’t available. This year, he attempted to add child trafficking to the list of capitol offenses, but that bill failed. Now, as the Utah House prepares to debate Republican Sen. Steve Urquhart’s attempt to get rid of the death penalty Ray plans on trying to hijack the bill with a substitute that brings back his failed child trafficking bill.

“So this is just a tool I have in my belt as we debate this bill," Ray says. "If we have an opportunity to sub it, and revive my bill then we’ll do that. Or we’ll just kill it upright, whatever the body decides to do.”

Ray also seems to be inciting some political payback on Urquhart, who was on the committee that killed Ray’s bill.

“If Sen. Urquhart wants to play games then I’ve got this bill available to play games with if they want to do that.”

“You know silliness happens up here," Sen. Urquhart says. "That’s a silly statement. His bill came before committee and it didn’t make it out of committee. What does he expect? That committee in the Senate were on record saying that we want to get out of the business of killing, so why would we want to expand the business of killing.”

He says while the situation is very fluid, he feels he has the votes in the House to get it passed. If they do, Utah would become the 20th state to get rid of the death penalty. 

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