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Safer Kentucky Act gets another vocal hearing in the Kentucky Senate.

Stu Johnson
file photo-2024 Legislative Session

Time was spent Friday, day 59 of the Kentucky Legislative Session, overriding vetoes offered by Governor Beshear. That includes final action on what proponents call the Safer Kentucky Act. The 78-page bill covers a lot of areas when it comes to addressing criminal behavior. Union GOP Senator John Schickel said concerns about increased costs for more incarceration is not a reason to reject this approach.

“Well I’m sorry folks. People that commit three violent felonies need to be in prison. And they need to be in prison for a long time. And if it’s costing us too much money maybe we ought to look at the way we run our prison systems and why they’re costing us that much money,” said Schickel.

In expressing support for the bill, Schickel said police and county judicial officials are dealing with “real life.”

A number of lawmakers expressed support for the governor’s veto. Among them was Grayson Democratic Senator Robin Webb who said it amounted to adding another panel in a crazy quilt called the criminal penal code. Fruit Hill GOP Senator Whitney Westerfield said no one could tell him why the existing persistent felony offender statute isn’t, quote, “getting it done.”

The multi-faceted crime-addressing measure includes a provision opponents say criminalizes homelessness. Louisville Democratic Senator Cassie Chambers-Armstrong voted to uphold Beshear’s veto.

“I’m imagining when an officer goes up to someone who has nowhere else to go and says “you have to cease being here.” The person says where can I go, the answer under this bill is nowhere. You can’t go to a public space, you can’t go to a private space, you can’t go to a park. There’s nowhere for you to go. How are you supposed to cease the offense?" asked Chambers Armstrong.

The Senate overrode the governor’s veto by a 27 to ten vote. It was also overridden in the Kentucky 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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