FRANKFORT, Ky. — It took until the final day of the legislative session, but Kentucky lawmakers passed a bill banning most no-knock warrants.
What You Need To Know
- Limits on no-knock warrants passed on the final day of session
- Lawmakers passed several other bills, including full-day kindergarten
- The legislature spent more than a billion dollars in legislation Tuesday
- If Gov. Andy Beshear vetoes any legislation passed Monday or Tuesday, lawmakers cannot override him
Senate Bill 4 comes after the death of Breonna Taylor last year, and even though it doesn’t go as far as some advocates would like, many voted in favor of the bill because they feel it’s a step in the right direction.
“Today is progress,” Rep. Patti Minter (D-Bowling Green) said. “Today is a good start.”
SB 4 limits when no-knock warrants can be used, mostly for violent crimes or sexual offenses. It also prohibits overnight no-knock warrants, requires officers to wear a police insignia on their clothes, and requires an EMT to be nearby to treat any injuries.
“Breonna Taylor might still be alive today had EMTs been on premises after she was shot,” Minter said.
The bill requires body cams and specially-trained teams, although an amendment sponsored by Rep. John Blanton (R-Salyersville) gives police departments in counties with fewer than 90,000 people more leeway with those rules if they don’t have body cams or specially-trained officers available.
“Because often times, rural areas don’t have the resources available that some of the urban areas do, so we don’t want to tie their hands when emergencies arise,” Blanton said.
No-knock warrants have been a topic of discussion since Breonna Taylor was killed last year when three plain-clothes Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) officers executed one at her apartment. The debate on the floor was no different.
Rep. Chris Fugate (R-Chavies) made his own recommendation for healing racial injustice.
“Until we’re allowed to lift up the name of Christ in the public sector again, society will never get better,” Fugate said.
His comment prompted a heated response from Rep. Pamela Stevenson (D-Louisville).
“Yes, I’m upset. I had to teach my son how to drive while Black,” Stevenson said. “And you want to tell me about putting God back in school? Well, put Christ back in Christians.”
Rep. Reginald Meeks (D-Louisville) was one of only five ‘no’ votes in the House.
“The reality is there are individuals who are not being held accountable, individuals who are wearing the blue and wearing the badge," he said.
The Senate later voted unanimously to send the bill to Gov. Andy Beshear.
“But even though this bill doesn’t eliminate no-knocks per say, in my opinion, it is a significant piece of legislation,” Sen. Gerald Neal (D-Louisville) said.
Rep. Attica Scott (D-Louisville) sponsored House Bill 21, the official version of “Breonna’s Law,” which would have banned no-knock warrants outright. The bill did not make it out of a committee this year.
She said she was a reluctant "yes" vote on SB 4, but more needs to be done.
“It gets us closer to justice, but this ain’t it,” Scott said. “I voted ‘yes’ because daughters like mine deserve a chance to live without wondering if they will be next.”
Spectrum News 1 has reached out to Beshear’s office for comment on Senate Bill 4 and has not heard back but will provide his response when and if it is received.
The General Assembly also passed a bill that would provide $140 million for full-day kindergarten.
The passage came after lawmakers made changes to House Bill 382.
“I’ve not been shy about talking about how much I’m an advocate for early childhood education,” said Sen. Reggie Thomas (D-Lexington). “Finally, we fund full-day kindergarten. We’ve got to do that.”
Funding for full-day kindergarten had been part of an early version of House Bill 563, the “school choice” bill, but was taken out before it received final passage.
Rep. Josie Raymond (D-Louisville) said she was “thrilled.”
“Most school districts in Kentucky already fund full-day kindergarten because they see the value, not just for kids, but for families so they can go to work or school or training, but what this money is going to do is free up school districts to invest in other places, perhaps it’s instructional materials, perhaps it’s an expansion of early childhood education,” she said.
HB 382 would also add a $50 million rural broadband economic development fund and repay $575 million to the unemployment trust fund.
“We probably overlap on 70 or 80% of the things we want to do with the governor and this was one of his top items and we agree,” Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Taylor Mill) said.
Several other bills passed Tuesday night:
Senate Bill 5: protects businesses from possible lawsuits over COVID-19 as long as they follow coronavirus regulations put into place by either the state or the federal government.
House Bill 321: creates a tax increment financing district to help pay for projects in West Louisville.
House Bill 556: spends hundreds of millions of dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act, including $127 million for school renovations or replacements, $75 million to help vocational education centers, and $53 million for renovations to the Capitol. It also includes a funding mechanism to help the West End TIF proposal created in House Bill 321.
Senate Bill 48: shields certain information about law enforcement, judges, or prosecutors from the open records law.
House Bill 91: a constitutional amendment asking voters to ratify a change stating Kentucky does not guarantee the right to an abortion.
House Bill 372: an income tax credit for remote workers.
Editor's Note: Rep. Josie Raymond is married to Spectrum News 1 Digital Journalist Adam Raymond.