LITTLE ROCK Gov. Mike Beebe says he would sign a bill to repeal the death penalty in Arkansas if the legislature sent it to him.
Beebe was asked about a hypothetical bill banning capital punishment during a Wednesday meeting of the Political Animals Club.
"I'd sign it," Beebe said, going on to call signing a death warrant "next to the hardest thing I've ever had to do."
Beebe said he doesn't expect to see such a bill.
The governor said he has signed four death warrants after doing extensive research — including reading trial transcripts — on each case, but because of additional appeals, none was carried out.
No executions have occurred during Beebe's time as governor.
"It is an agonizing process whether you are for the death penalty or against the death penalty," Beebe said.
He said his view has evolved over the years, noting that having to sign the death warrant is sobering.
Speaking in response to a variety of questions at the meeting at the Governor's Mansion, Beebe also said he believes the sentencing-reform laws he backed are "working."
And, he said, he thinks hiring more school resource officers will be a better way to improve school safety than "having a bunch of volunteers go up there with gun permits."
Beebe spoke a day after his "State of the State" address to the legislature, during which he revealed a possible economic development project that would rank among the biggest in the state's history.
Speaking after the meeting with reporters, Beebe declined to offer many more specifics. He said he believes a "final hangup" is the only obstacle to sealing the deal and he repeated a broad estimate offered Tuesday on the number of jobs it might create: "A bunch."
But, Beebe said, he believes it's likely the deal will come through and that Arkansas is not vying with other states to land it at this point.
"I think it's pretty good [odds] or I wouldn't have mentioned it," he said.