California's death penalty has new life.
Legislation seeking to eliminate the death penalty was shelved Thursday in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
Senate Bill 490 would have placed before voters in November 2012 a measure to close death row and replace the death penalty with life in prison without parole.
Sen. Loni Hancock, a Berkeley Democrat who proposed the measure, said she withdrew SB 490 from consideration after its fate became clear.
"The votes were not there to support reforming California's expensive and dysfunctional death penalty system," Hancock said in a written statement. "I had hoped we would take the opportunity to save hundreds of millions of dollars that could be used to support our schools and universities, keep police on our streets and fund essential public institutions like the courts," she said.
Gov. Jerry Brown, before the bill was shelved, suggested that he might support placing the death penalty before voters.
Brown declined to discuss SB 490, but said that in general, "When we have deep, troublesome issues that create gridlock in the Legislature, going back to the people can be a way to break the gridlock."
California Taxpayers For Justice, opposed to the death penalty, vowed Thursday to launch a ballot initiative that would place a ban before voters in November 2012.
SB 490 was fiercely contested, with opponents saying that the death penalty provides a deterrent to murder and that eliminating it would betray the families of homicide victims.
A Field Poll last year found that 70 percent of Californians support the death penalty.
Brown, a Democrat, vetoed legislation to reinstate the death penalty when he was governor in 1977, but his veto was overridden by the Legislature. He enforced the death penalty as attorney general and said he would uphold it as governor, despite personal reservations.
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