Brewer vetoes expanded death penalty, citing constitutionality fears

2014-04-25T00:00:00Z Brewer vetoes expanded death penalty, citing constitutionality fearsBy Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star

PHOENIX — Calling it a serious threat to the state’s death penalty, Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed legislation Thursday that would have allowed more criminals to be executed.

HB 2313 would have expanded what jurors could consider in deciding if someone convicted of a capital crime should be sentenced to death or life behind bars. A key sticking point was a provision allowing jurors to consider if that person might commit future violent criminal acts.

Other bills nixed by Brewer less than 24 hours after the legislative session ended include:

  • Redefining what is a firearm in a way the governor said would let dangerous weapons into public buildings.
  • Exempting for-profit ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft from some of the same regulations that govern taxi firms.
  • Limiting the ability of the state Board of Education to set academic standards.

Arizona law says those convicted of first-degree murder can executed, but there must be “aggravating factors” beyond premeditated murder, ranging from killing someone for money to committing the crime in “an especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner.”

HB 2313 sought to let juries decide if there was “a substantial likelihood the defendant would commit criminal acts of violence that constitute a continuing threat to society.”

That, Brewer wrote in her veto message, “broadens the scope of those eligible for the death penalty to the point where the constitutionality of Arizona’s death penalty statute likely would be challenged and potentially be declared to be unconstitutional.”

Rep. Justin Pierce, R-Mesa, who crafted the measure, said it was aimed at gang members who already have killed people and are in prison, and called the governor’s concerns unwarranted.

Brewer also rejected legislation to redefine what is a firearm. She said she would have exempted weapons like air pistols, which could still cause injury or death, from limits on where firearms are allowed.

SB 1366 also said a person is not guilty of illegal weapon possession if what they had was not “readily convertible” into a gun. The law would have allowed multiple people to carry pieces of a dangerous weapon into a public building, where it could easily be reassembled, Brewer said.

Charles Heller of the Arizona Citizens Defense League said the intent was to prevent people from being punished for having a nonworking gun, perhaps an antique, and contended Brewer “completely twisted the language of the bill to suit her veto.”

Brewer rejected HB 2262 saying it would have allowed “transportation network companies” to operate without “fundamental safeguards” to drivers, passengers and the general public.

The companies use Internet apps to connect passengers with drivers using their own cars. Financial arrangements are made online, with the company keeping a share and paying the driver.

But Brewer said there are no requirements for pre-employment and random drug testing similar to those for taxi drivers, and was concerned the companies do not provide constant liability coverage for all drivers.

Brewer did sign several measures, including:

  • Taking away the authority of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission to police campaign law violations by candidates who do not accept public funding.
  • Making “female genitalia mutilation” of minors, a practice in some cultures, a crime.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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