The members of the General Assembly have all gone home for now. For us the session was good. In the waning days we learned of SB 186 sponsored by Sen. Max Wise and co-sponsored by Sen. Whitney Westerfield. This bill included provisions to increase the use of the death penalty in Kentucky, even for those who did not kill someone.
Fortunately, just as it was about to be brought to the Senate floor for a vote, we were able to raise enough concerns with Senators about its unconstitutionality and the cost of expansion. Sen. Wise asked that the bill be passed over and eventually it was sent to the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee where there was no further action. We expect to see a version of this back next year and will have another battle to stop it.
We had other successes. Both bills to abolish the death penalty had Republican and Democrat sponsors and co-sponsors. We were especially happy to have House Bill 251 sponsored by freshman Jason Nemes, a Republican representative from Jefferson County. He did really well lining up co-sponsors and setting a record high for us of 18 other House members, including 7 Republicans, adding their names to the bill. In the Senate, Republican Julie Raque Adams was the primary co-sponsor of Senate Bill 131 filed by our good friend Sen. Gerald Neal. You may click on the bill numbers to see the list of those who sponsored and co-sponsored these bills. If you live in their districts, we hope you contact them and thank them for their public support of abolition.
Each Wednesday, with the help of staff from our friends at the ACLU of Kentucky, we had meetings with legislators and their constituents, family members of murder victims, and a man wrongfully convicted who spent years in a Kentucky prison. Although we did not convince everyone we met with, we did have a significant impact. Some later co-sponsored the bill and several committed to voting YES for its passage. This work will continue.
We are grateful for all those who came over on Wednesdays to attend these meetings. We want to give a special shout out to the Quaker community whose legislative action team made several visits during the session to see their legislators.
Photo: Pat Delahanty