Beshear vetoes sweeping anti-crime bill along with parts of state budget

Published 1:45 pm Wednesday, April 10, 2024


Kentucky Lantern

Democratic Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear issued a number of vetoes Tuesday including rejecting a sweeping anti-crime bill pushed by Jefferson County Republicans and strongly opposed by Democrats, arguing House Bill 5 is a costly and “unwieldy” bill.

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HB 5, primarily sponsored by Rep. Jared Bauman, had received opposition across a broad political spectrum with conservative and progressive groups saying the legislation needs more fiscal analysis before being implemented.

Beshear in his veto message echoed that concern among other issues, saying lawmakers didn’t provide a “fiscal impact analysis” with HB 5 despite the “tremendous fiscal impact” it would have on the Kentucky Department of Corrections and county governments.

The governor wrote HB 5 did have “good parts” that would have likely gotten “unanimous support” as standalone bills, such as requiring firearms used in murders be destroyed and “making carjacking its own separate crime.”

The legislature instead, he wrote, included these good policies with dozens of other measures “that would criminalize homelessness and significantly increase incarceration costs without any additional appropriation.”

Beshear also wrote the legislature is capping the Kentucky Department of Corrections’ ability to tap excess funds if needed to pay county jails for housing state inmates, costs which would increase under HB 5.

HB 5 creates increased or new criminal penalties, implements a three strikes rule for violent offenders and bans street camping. For prisoners convicted of violent offenses, HB 5 requires them to serve 85% of their sentences before becoming eligible for parole; those prisoners currently have to serve 20% of a sentence before becoming eligible. HB 5 also classifies more crimes as violent.

The Kentucky Fraternal Order of Police and some families of deceased crime victims have supported the bill.

Bauman in an emailed statement said he “completely” disagreed with the governor’s veto, claiming Beshear was using “misinformation and fear-mongering” and was more concerned “about offending criminals than protecting innocent Kentuckians.”

“I hoped that he would take this opportunity to do the right thing as we work to address public safety, a fundamental obligation of government and an issue that unites Kentuckians regardless of where they live,” Bauman said.

Beshear also vetoed specific line items in state budgetary bills along with other legislation backed by the GOP-dominated legislature including: Senate Bill 349, creating new barriers for utilities to retire fossil fuel-fired power plants; Senate Bill 299, creating a new government corporation overseeing horse racing and charitable gaming; House Bill 622, requiring vacancies of U.S. Senate seats be filled by special elections; and Senate Bill 16, criminalizing the use of drones and recording equipment at meatpacking plants and agricultural operations without consent of operation owners or managers.

Republicans have supermajority representation in each chamber, meaning they can easily override any Beshear veto.