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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Kitzhaber Urges Death Penalty Vote, Legislative Leaders Lukewarm

Chris Lehman
Northwest News Network

SALEM, Ore. – Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber is urging state lawmakers to send voters a measure to ban capital punishment. But in a meeting with reporters Tuesday, legislative leaders showed little enthusiasm for taking up the hot button issue.

When the governor put a moratorium on the death penalty in November of 2011, he also called on the legislature to debate the issue. With this year’s session now underway, the Governor didn't mince words when reporters at the state capitol asked him what he wants the legislature to do.

"I would like to replace the death penalty with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole," Kitzhaber said.

That would require a statewide vote, since the death penalty is currently in the Oregon Constitution. Nearly a dozen lawmakers—mostly Democrats—have signed onto a proposal to put such a question on the ballot. Its sponsor, Portland Democrat Mitch Greenlick, says he's confident the legislation will succeed.

But in the same meeting with reporters, legislative leaders couldn’t even say whether the idea would get a vigorous debate. Either way, Kitzhaber says his moratorium will last as long as remains governor.

On the Web:

Oregon House Joint Resolution 1 (Oregon Legislature)
Capital punishment in Oregon (Oregon Department of Corrections)