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Legislation to move more teenage gun-related offenders to circuit court moves out of the Kentucky Senate

Elizabethtown GOP Senator Matthew Deneen explains SB 20
Stu Johnson
Elizabethtown GOP Senator Matthew Deneen explains SB 20

The Kentucky Senate has approved a bill proponents say is needed to help curtail youth-related violent acts. Opponents argue that preventive measures and addressing root causes remain of utmost importance.

The measure, sponsored by GOP Elizabethtown Senator Matthew Deneen calls for automatically transferring cases to circuit court for those 15 and older when committing gun-related class C felonies. Deneen spoke about statistics for shootings and homicides, particularly in larger Kentucky cities.

 “We can’t turn a blind eye to these facts. They are impacting our neighborhoods, our communities, in the entire Commonwealth,” said Deneen.

One of the nine no votes came from Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Whitney Westerfield. The GOP lawmaker said there’s no evidence these teenage offenders are not already being seen in circuit court.

Westerfield also argued against the elimination of considering ten factors like the seriousness of the alleged offense or the maturity of the child as determined by their environment.

Also, speaking against the bill was Louisville Democratic Senator Karen Berg.

“These children get out of jail and they don’t return and they don’t return to society safer. We do not make them better in jail. We make them worse,” said Berg.

Deneen, meanwhile, said the bill helps ensure the time fits the crime, and added it puts victims before perpetrators. The bill, approved 25 to nine with one pass, also raises the minimum of 20% time served before parole eligibility to 50% for class C felonies involving the discharge of a weapon. The measure heads to the House.

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Stu has been reporting for WEKU for more than 35 years. His primary beat is Lexington/Fayette government.
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