The identity of Texas' lethal drug supplier would remain confidential under a measure the state House approved Monday -- bringing it to the cusp of clearing the Legislature, despite advocates' calls to lift the secrecy surrounding the drugs used for executions in the nation's busiest death chamber.
The bill would prohibit disclosure to the public and even to death row inmates and their attorneys. It sailed through the Texas Senate last week, then passed the lower chamber via a simple voice vote and without debate.
That means the proposal is just a legislative logistical step away from the desk of Gov. Greg Abbott, who is expected to sign it into law.
An ongoing legal challenge already prohibits Texas from disclosing where the state buys execution drugs. That ruling came after manufacturers reported being threatened by death penalty opponents.
But the new measure would permanently keep the names of execution drug suppliers confidential.
The office of Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton has said that execution drug manufacturers won't sell to the state without total confidentiality. Suppliers who have reported being threatened by death penalty opponents say they won't take the risk.
Last year, The Associated Press reported that Texas officials have offered scant evidence to support their claim that compounding pharmacies supplying the state with execution drugs would be in danger of violence if their identities were made public.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice said last week it had purchased from a licensed compound pharmacy a new supply of the powerful sedative pentobarbital large enough to carry out at least the two executions scheduled next month. It did not provide further details.