The Utah state Senate voted to approve a bill that outlaws the death penalty.
The Washington Post reported that 15 senators voted to send the bill to the state's House of Representatives.
If the bill makes it through the House, it goes on to Governor Gary Herbert — who has held a firm stance in support of capital punishment and signed a bill last year expanding use of the state's firing squad execution chamber.
"Governor Herbert continues to be a supporter of the death penalty but has concerns over the excessive length of time it often takes from the date of conviction to the actual punishment," Herbert's spokesman, Jon Cox, said of the governor's stance.
The bill would prohibit death sentences for aggravated murders that were committed on or before May 10 of 2015, and would also ban sentences for crimes before that date if the death penalty has not been sought.
During the debate on the Senate floor, many supporters of the death penalty argued that the issue with capital punishment is more related to case management than the death penalty itself. He referenced Virginia in his argument, pointing out that the state's appeals are over in seven years, on average.
"If Utah cares about victims, survivors and costs, we should duplicate Virginia's protocol rather than just punting," he said, according to KSL.
If the bill passes the House and Governor Herbert opts for a veto, overriding it would require a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate. Republican Senator Steve Urquhart, who sponsored the bill, told the Washington Post that he was "making tremendous headway talking with House members" about a repeal.
His main argument, Urquhart said, was focused on the cost of the death penalty and the fact that the process is often problematic in terms of its many delays.
"I'm thinking that it's wrong for government to be in [the] business [of] killing its own citizens," he said. "That cheapens life."