Republicans are firing back against Gov. Jay Inslees announcement that he is suspending executions during his time in office by trying to restrain his power.
Sen. Steve OBan, R-Tacoma, announced Wednesday that he is introducing legislation that would limit the governors ability to grant a universal reprieve to people on death row.
State law authorizes the governor to grant pardons or commute a death sentence. But OBans legislation would prohibit a governor from exercising his or her powers of clemency until after receiving a recommendation from the state Clemency and Pardons Board.
The measure is a response to Inslees Tuesday announcement that he plans to halt executions in Washington state throughout his governorship. Right now, nine men in Washington state are on death row.
OBan said that the governor overstepped his constitutional authority by granting clemency to all men currently on death row without reviewing each case or seeking a recommendation from the Clemency and Pardons Board.
The five-member board advises the governor on petitions to grant clemency or commute death-row sentences, and was established partly to consider a crimes effect on a victims family and the surrounding community.
OBan said the governors blanket announcement that he will choose not to execute death-row inmates subverts state policy as determined by the Legislature.
The governor has to follow a procedure the Legislature has set up, and he didnt, OBan said Wednesday night. The governors role is to look on a case-by-case basis at a particular death row inmate, and see if there was some irregularity in the way the matter was prosecuted, or something like that. Thats his role.
Its the Legislatures prerogative to decide if as a policy matter if were going to have this penalty for these aggravated, horrendous murders, OBan said.
Inslees announcement didnt abolish the death penalty in Washington, and convicted felons could still be executed after he has left office. A legislative action would be required to eliminate capital punishment in the state.
State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement Tuesday that Inslee was acting within his constitutional power in regards to the death penalty cases.
Washingtons Constitution and state statutes grant the governor significant powers over the fate of individuals sentenced to death, Ferguson said in the statement. Consequently, the governor has the authority to hit the 'pause' button for executions in Washington.
OBan said he expects a hearing will be held on his proposal soon, possibly next week, in the Senate Law & Justice Committee.
Its not clear what potential OBans plan has to move forward in the Legislature. A deadline for bills to pass out of committees was Tuesday, and an extraordinary legislative action would be necessary for the Senate to bring the legislation up for a vote.
Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina, said Wednesday that his focus this session remains on issues such as funding education and transportation.
Were going to stick to the issues that really matter, Tom said.
David Postman, a spokesman for Inslee, said the governors office would not comment on OBans proposal Wednesday night.
A bill had not been formally introduced Wednesday, but O'Ban said the proposed legislation would be available for review Thursday morning.