Kentucky Politics

The Kentucky legislature is moving forward with a Republican-sponsored proposal to limit no-knock search warrants and not a Democratic bill favored by protesters.

The House Judiciary Committee heard both measures during a meeting on Wednesday, but designated House Bill 21, also known as Breonna’s Law for Kentucky, as “for discussion only,” preventing it from receiving a vote.

Instead, the committee unanimously advanced Senate Bill 4 sponsored by Republican Senate President Robert Stivers, which would limit no-knock searches to situations that involve allegedly violent activity.

Louisville Democratic Rep. Attica Scott is the primary sponsor of Breonna’s Law. She said Stivers’ measure doesn’t go far enough, but they are working together on the issue.

“For me, that’s what we’re trying to exhibit here today — coming together to figure out how we come up with a good bill that will make a difference for the people in Kentucky. And so that the folks that I know I’ve been out on the frontlines with will no longer feel ignored, silent or forgotten,” Scott said.

The development comes nearly one year after Louisville police shot and killed Breonna Taylor in her apartment while executing a search warrant. Officers say they announced themselves, though they didn’t have their body cameras on and witnesses dispute it.

Stivers’ bill already unanimously passed out of the state Senate and now heads to the full House after a 15-0 vote. Four Democrats, including Scott, voted “pass.”

The proposal would still allow no-knock warrants to be issued in cases of alleged violent crime, or if giving prior notice would endanger someone’s life or result in the loss of evidence related to a violent crime.

When a judge approves a no-knock warrant, the bill would require specially-trained police officers to serve warrants, wear body cameras and only to enter property between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. in most cases.

The bill would also require more oversight of the application process for warrants and make police who lie on warrant affidavits subject to perjury charges.

After months of working on separate bills, Stivers said he wants to work together with Scott on the issue.

“I don’t have the knowledge she has and I can say I never will. So do I know it? No. Can I understand it? To a certain extent,” Stivers said.

Stivers and Scott have been on separate tracks since last summer — Scott pre-filed Breonna’s Law in August and Stivers announced he would file a no-knock bill, which he ultimately didn’t file until earlier this month.

Louisville Democratic Rep. Nima Kulkarni said Scott helped advance the issue, even if her bill ultimately won’t pass.

“We would not be having this conversation if it was not for that work that you did and for the lives of the protesters and the fact that you yourself put your body on the line and Ashanti, your daughter, was right there with you,” Kulkarni said.

Keturah Herron, a policy strategist with ACLU of Kentucky, said more changes need to be implemented and Breonna Taylor’s name needs to be attached to Stivers’ bill.

“Now is not the time to stop. We must radically reimagine the role of police in public safety and implement robust police accountability measures to combat racism and implicit bias in policing,” Keturah wrote in a statement.

“Naming this law after her is not justice, but we must honor her name, legacy, and never forget her story. It was Breonna’s dream to save lives, and this law will save lives.”

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.