Republican Rep. Jared Bauman speaks about an omnibus anti-crime plan backed by Louisville GOP state representatives, Sept. 26, 2023. (Kentucky Lantern photo by McKenna Horsley)
LOUISVILLE — Republican state representatives from Louisville plan to file an 18-point omnibus bill in the next legislative session that aims to tackle an “epidemic of crime in our commonwealth,” said the bill’s lead sponsor, Rep. Jared Bauman.
The bill, which focuses mostly on issues within Louisville and Jefferson County, is backed by seven Republicans and will be reviewed in a Dec. 15 meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary. Speaking in a Tuesday afternoon press conference at the River City Fraternal Order of Police headquarters, Bauman said the legislation will give support to law enforcement while adding harsher penalties to criminals.
“We remain committed to taking serious and meaningful action to support the restoration of stability and society by supporting Kentucky families, supporting our law enforcement and ensuring that our great Commonwealth has the strongest policy possible to hold criminals accountable for their actions,” Bauman said.
The General Assembly, which has a Republican supermajority in both the House and Senate, will return to Frankfort in January, after Kentucky voters choose their next governor — either incumbent Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear or Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron.
Some proposals in the Louisville Republicans’ plan, such as changing the state parole board and establishing a Kentucky State Police post in Jefferson County, are part of Cameron’s previously released crime plan. The attorney general expressed support for the legislation in a Tuesday statement.
Beshear has said that adding a post in Louisville “shows a lack of confidence” in the Louisville Metro Police Department.
House Republican Whip Jason Nemes, another Louisville lawmaker, said the goal is to make residents feel safe in their communities.
“When we walk around in our districts, what we hear all around Louisville, all around Kentucky is, ‘Crime’s out of control. I want to go downtown, but I feel unsafe,’” Nemes said. “And so what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to make people safe and make them feel safe.”
According to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit data tracker, Kentucky has had 590 incidents of gun violence since the start of this year. Louisville has had 324 incidents in that time frame. The next highest number of incidents was 73 in Lexington.
According to data from Jan. 1, 2022 to Sept. 26, 2022, 626 incidents were reported in Kentucky and Louisville had 306 incidents. Lexington had 120 incidents in that timeframe.
Louisville made national headlines earlier this year when a gunman entered the Old National Bank downtown and killed five people. At the time, Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg called on the General Assembly to allow cities to make their own policies to tackle gun violence. State law prohibits local governments from enacting regulations on guns or ammunition.
When asked if anything would be added to the bill to give cities more local control regarding gun violence laws, Bauman said lawmakers are open to hearing more from key stakeholders including Greenberg.
“We are very eager to, again, as the legislative process plays out over the next three months, work on ways to sharpen the Safer Kentucky Act and really make it the best version possible for the Commonwealth,” Bauman said.
What’s in the plan
Here’s the 18 points in the Safer Kentucky Act, according to a press release:
- Create a “three strikes law” for violent persistent felony offenders, which would require life without probation or parole for those convicted of a violent felony that doesn’t qualify as a capital offense if the person already has two separate violent felony convictions on their criminal record. This would also allow the death penalty to be used if the third violent felony is a capital offense.
- Allow the death penalty or life without parole for people who knowingly sell fentanyl or a fentanyl derivative to someone when the consumption of the substance causes death.
- Make providing contraband substances — such as fentanyl, carfentanil and fentanyl derivatives — within a jail, prison, or other type of detention center a Class B felony, which carries a sentence between 10 to 20 years.
- Establish a Kentucky State Police post in Jefferson County.
- Regulate bail fund organizations by preventing charitable organizations from furnishing bail of $5,000 or more; making it unlawful to give bail in any amount for an offense of domestic violence or for a person being held under a civil court order or warrant pursuant to Casey’s Law; requiring those who post bail to give photo ID; and requiring charitable bail organizations to give annual reports to the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary and make the reports available online. This part of the legislation is named “Madelynn’s Law” after Madelynn Troutt, a 17-year-old who died in a head-on car crash in 2021. A bail organization had posted bond for the driver before the accident. A judge dismissed a lawsuit against the organization in 2022.
- Allow business employees and owners to “use a reasonable amount of force necessary” for self-protection, stop someone detained from escaping and prevent the loss of goods for sale. This would also give civil and criminal immunity for the employees and owners.
- Increase penalties for people convicted of attempted murder by requiring them to serve at least 85% of their sentence before becoming eligible for early release and adding attempted murder to the violent offense statute.
- Require parents to attend juvenile court hearings. The act would also create a fine up to $500 and require up to 40 hours of community service for those who violate the law.
- Require identification cards or operator’s licenses to be issued to eligible felony offenders as part of re-entering society after incarceration.
- Create a carjacking statute that would make carjacking a Class C felony, which carries a five to 10 year sentence. If the carjacker causes serious physical injury, the crime would rise to a Class B felony and become a capital offense if the victim dies.
- Increase penalties for vandalism of public or private property.
- Prevent a person from being eligible for any form of release before completing their sentence if they used a firearm that was possessed in violation of a state law.
- Allow those with eligible mental illness to be remanded to a sheriff or peace officer’s custody when discharged. The goal is to allow mental health treatment facilities and law enforcement to better coordinate for treatment and transport.
- Create a state law to allow law enforcement officers to use wiretapping in investigations.
- Change laws regarding the auction of confiscated guns to allow citizens to bid on murder weapons that will be destroyed by state police. This would allow the gun to remain off the street after being used in a crime while continuing to allow police to collect funds from the sale.
- Add provisions to prevent street camping on “public streets, sidewalks, paths, or public areas normally used by pedestrians and/or vehicles, private property, homes, or businesses in any way.”
- Require the death penalty in cases where a law enforcement officer has been murdered.
- Change the Kentucky Parole Board to allow a governor to remove members and require an unanimous vote of three six-member panels to approve parole.
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