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Ohio Gov. Says Fentanyl Can’t Be Used for Capital Punishment

A proposal to use fentanyl for executions has been nixed in Ohio.

A proposal to use fentanyl for executions has been nixed in Ohio. Yusia/Shutterstock

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Connecting state and local government leaders

STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Arizona to make cities pay for minimum wage increases … Dayton mayor ups security after Trump insults … Mississippi health workers to ask for state help with mental health crisis.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine months ago halted any executions of prisoners on death row because no method the state corrections department proposed would be approved by a federal court. All methods used in the past involve drugs that are no longer legal to purchase in the U.S., leading some states to try to purchase the drugs internationally. DeWine, a Republican, said the state will not seek drugs that have been outlawed. In response, state Rep. Scott Wiggam introduced legislation to allow the state to use seized fentanyl for executions. “My thought process is one, I know that fentanyl is a drug that can be used in executions—it was used in Nebraska. My other thought process is that I know that we have a lot of it. We’ve seized enough fentanyl or carfentanil in the state of Ohio to kill half the population," said Wiggam, a Republican from Wooster. But DeWine said he absolutely doesn’t support the idea. “Fentanyl is not an option. We do not believe it would pass constitutional muster,” he said. The proposal has been widely decried by human rights activists and lawyers, including Deborah Denno, a law professor at Fordham University. “Simply because people are dying as a result of fentanyl doesn’t mean they’re dying in a way that would be considered acceptable as a form of execution,” she said. Gary Daniels with the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, which threatened to sue over the use of fentanyl in executions, called the idea tone deaf. “I know that a lot of states and governments like to engage in what is essentially human experimentation with their condemned prisoners. But the time is now to talk about ending the death penalty altogether, not how are we going to expand it," Daniels said. Wiggam contended that fentanyl may be the only option, though, other than more antiquated measures. "This is a much less violent way than the electric chair and the latest lethal injection (in Ohio in 2014) that took 26 minutes. This is a much more humane way,” he said. [The Columbus Dispatch; WOSU; Cleveland.com; New York Times]

MINIMUM WAGE | A new law in Arizona that is set to take effect at the end of August will require the state to calculate the cost to the state government when cities or counties raise the minimum wage above the state-set rate. If the state has to pay more for services in those municipalities because of a higher minimum wage, state lawmakers can then force the local government to cover the cost. Supporters of the measure say the move is fair to taxpayers throughout the state, as government contractors based in municipalities that have increased the minimum wage may have to pay some workers more and accordinging charge the government more. "We don't feel the taxpayers around the state should be forced to bear the burden of the additional cost," said state Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Regina Cobb, a Republican. In 2016, Arizona voters opted to raise the minimum wage to $12 by 2020, but one city, Flagstaff, went further and required that the shift to $12 happen this year. They also mandated raising the wage to $15.50 in 2022. Opponents of the new measure, including Tom Belshe, deputy director of the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, say it is a form of preemption, and is curtailing the rights of local governments to set their own laws. "I do believe it was meant to have a chilling effect," said Belshe. [AZ Central]

DAYTON MAYOR | The mayor of Dayton, Ohio was assigned a 24-hour security detail following hateful messages and threats she received after President Trump insulted her on Twitter and in interviews. Mayor Nan Whaley and Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio, held a press conference earlier this month calling for gun control legislation after nine people died in a mass shooting in Dayton. After the press conference, which was held following the president’s visit to Dayton, Trump spoke with reporters and said, “I turn on the television and there they are saying, ‘Well, I don’t know if it was appropriate for the president to be here...They’re very dishonest people.” Whaley then called Trump a “bully and a coward” and said she was “just doing her job” by calling for more gun control. “I respected the president and the office of the president, but I strongly want him to do something and the people of Dayton want him to do something, and so it’s my job to say that,” Whaley said. Two city officials determined that Whaley needed the security, which was assigned to her for the third time during her tenure in office. [Dayton Daily News; Huffington Post]

MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS | Health workers in Southern Mississippi are planning to  ask for help from the state to fund treatment for uninsured people with mental illnesses who are in jails and emergency rooms throughout the region. Harrison County hospital workers, law enforcement personnel, court staffers, and mental health advocates drafted a letter they plan send to state legislators. “We are in a crisis and immediate assistance is required. We request your support to stabilize this crisis as we move forward with a solution. By delaying services, the mental health community will experience crisis causing them to spend numerous days in our hospital’s emergency rooms or a jail cell...where their needs cannot be addressed appropriately,” they wrote in the draft, which is being coordinated by a hospital. With a population of 206,650, Harrison County has been overwhelmed by mental health needs, with over 4,000 people in 2018 showing up in the emergency room last year who had symptoms of mental illness. The county has only 11 beds designated for individuals experiencing mental health problems who need to be committed. In Gulfport, a city in the county, Councilman Rusty Walker said he thinks the region needs about $3.5 million a year from the state to pay for patient transport and treatment costs. “We think the state should provide that funding. They’re the ones who have removed beds and services and we think they should step up and handle it,” he said. The letter also notes that the DOJ is currently suing Mississippi for violating federal law by failing to provide adequate community mental health services. [Biloxi Sun Herald; Associated Press]

CORRUPTION | The former mayor of Palm Springs, California has been indicted by a grand jury on charges of corruption over allegations that he took $375,000 in bribes from real estate developers. If convicted, Stephen Philip Pougnet faces up to 19 years in prison and could be barred from public office for the rest of his life. Pougnet had already been charged by Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin, but prosecutors believed an indictment would move the case forward more quickly. Malcolm Segal, Pougnet’s attorney, said that he was a “terrific mayor” who “did his very best” for the city during his term. “This filing is simply another step in the legal process which will enable Steve to have the matter heard by a jury,” Segal said, regarding the grand jury indictment. “He will plead not guilty and expects to be fully vindicated when all the facts are presented.” Current Palm Springs Mayor Robert Moon and several city councilmembers issued a joint statement saying they are pleased with the results of the grand jury investigation. “The grand jury came to the same conclusion that the district attorney previously came to...a trial should now proceed more expeditiously through our criminal justice system and continuous delays will cease. Each of us was elected after the events that led to the indictments occurred and we are proud of the work our council, staff and resident-led task force have done to enact and implement new, ethics and transparency laws and policies that far exceed the requirements of state and federal law, making Palm Springs a leader in open government,” the statement reads. [The Press-Enterprise; Associated Press]

Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty. 

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