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Utah Senate Advances Death Penalty Abolishment

Utah senators on Wednesday voted to abolish the death penalty, advancing what had been considered a longshot proposal in the conservative state.

The measure marks a stunning turn in Utah, where a year ago lawmakers voted to reinstate the use of the firing squad as a backup execution method. Lawmakers argued last year that if the state has a shortage of lethal injection drugs, it must still find a way to kill death row inmates.

Sen. Steve Urquhart, a Republican from St. George, is leading the push this year to repeal capital punishment, citing conservative themes of imperfect governments and capital punishment as a costly and inefficient policy.

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His proposal cleared the GOP-controlled Senate 15-12 Wednesday, advancing it to the Republican-dominated House of Representatives.

Urquhart said he does not yet know how many supporters he has in the House, but he has backing from the chamber’s Republican Speaker Greg Hughes.

Hughes told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he’s been a quiet but longtime opponent of the death penalty. Hughes said he plans to be vocal in his support of abolishing the practice when the bill reaches his House colleagues.