COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The identities of companies that sell execution drugs to South Carolina would be protected under a bill proposed Tuesday by a state lawmaker and supported by the leading Republican in the House.

Spartanburg Rep. Eddie Tallon told The Associated Press that the bill he's filing will make drug suppliers part of the execution team, so that just like employees in the death chamber who carry out the sentence, the companies' identities will be shielded by state law.

Public pressure has made pharmaceutical companies reluctant to sell drugs knowing they'll be used to end lives, not save them. Nearly a dozen states have passed laws providing secrecy for suppliers in response.

"If South Carolina is going to have the death penalty, then we need to have a way to carry it out," Tallon, the House assistant GOP leader, told the AP.

House Majority Leader Gary Simrill, the chamber's leading Republican, voiced support for the measure, suggesting it would get priority this session.

"House Republicans believe it is important to continue administering the death penalty in our state," Simrill told AP. "This measure will allow us to continue to do so."

Lawmakers have been looking for ways to carry out executions since the state's supply of lethal injection drugs expired in 2013. The state has not conducted any executions since 2011, in part because the drugs have not been available.

Another possibility is empowering the state to electrocute inmates when the drugs aren't available. Currently, inmates can only be electrocuted if they request that method. South Carolina last used electrocution in 2008, to put James Earl Reed to death for the 1996 killing of his ex-girlfriend's parents.

Corrections Director Bryan Stirling has warned repeatedly in legislative testimony that the state can't obtain the drugs it needs without such secrecy.

Gov. Henry McMaster made the same point last year after the state Supreme Court scheduled a Dec. 1 execution for 52-year-old Bobby Wayne Stone, who is on death row for killing a Sumter County sheriff's deputy in 1996. McMaster said the state couldn't carry it out due to a lack of lethal injection drugs, and called on lawmakers to shield their identities so that executions could resume.

"It's their decision on whether or not we have the death penalty," Stirling told the AP. "It's just my job to make sure we have ways to carry it out."

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Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP. Read her work at https://apnews.com/search/meg%20kinnard.