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Proposal to limit Kentucky Governors end-of-term pardon power passed in state Senate

Stock photo of the Lady of Justice statue
Stock photo of the Lady of Justice statue

The Kentucky Senate has endorsed a proposed constitutional change to limit a governor’s end-of-term pardon powers. The proposal reflects outrage still burning from pardons granted by former Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin on his way out of office in 2019. During his final weeks in office, Bevin issued more than 600 pardons and commutations.

The measure would amend Kentucky’s constitution to remove a governor’s ability to grant pardons or commute sentences 30 days before a gubernatorial election. This would also expand to the time between the election and inauguration. The restriction amounts to about two months of a governor's four-year term.

State Senator Chris McDaniel is the measure's lead sponsor. He said this is meant to guarantee what happened with former Governor Bevin never occurs again in the Bluegrass State.

“This proposed amendment would ensure that a governor is accountable to the voters for his or her actions.”

The proposal passed 34-2 in the state Senate. If it wins House approval, it will be placed on the November statewide ballot for voters.

McDaniel has been pushing for this constitutional change to put limits on gubernatorial pardon powers since 2020. So far, his efforts have been unable to move through the entire legislature.

The legislation under Senate Bill 126, is competing with several other proposed constitutional amendments being considered by lawmakers for placement on the November ballot.

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