Kentucky Politics

With the clock ticking on this year’s legislative session, lawmakers discussed criminal justice issues like the bill limiting no-knock warrants and a measure making it a crime to insult police during a panel on KET Monday night.

The discussion came two days after the anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s death, a Black woman killed by Louisville police during a middle-of-the-night raid on her apartment.

Protesters have called for lawmakers to pass a bill banning no-knock warrants, but the Republican-led legislature appears poised to only pass a bill limiting them.

Rep. Attica Scott is a Democrat from Louisville who proposed Breonna’s Law For Kentucky, a now-stalled proposal to totally ban no-knock warrants.

She said she’s not optimistic that justice will be served by the legislature.

“This session has truly been painful for many of us across Kentucky who have been fighting for justice, and in particular Black people who are barely represented here in this state Capitol,” Scott said.

Instead of moving forward with Scott’s bill, lawmakers have been pushing for Senate Bill 4, proposed by Republican Senate President Robert Stivers.

Stivers’ bill would only allow no-knock warrants to be executed in cases of alleged violent crime, between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. The bill also creates new oversight for obtaining warrants and requires specially trained officers with body cameras to execute the warrants.

The measure has already passed out of the state Senate and awaits a final vote in the House of Representatives, but several amendments have been proposed that could change the final version of the bill.

Advocates have sounded alarms on some of the amendments, one of which would allow no-knocks to be executed in some drug cases, another would extend the time when warrants can be executed to midnight.

Panelists also discussed Senate Bill 211, the measure that would make it a crime to insult a police officer and boost penalties for protest-related charges. Scott called it a “direct attack on people standing up for justice for Breonna Taylor.”

Louisville Metro council member Jecorey Arthur said the measure is unconstitutional, but sends a strong message of where the legislature stands on the issue.

“It sends a statement that some of our law enforcement, some of the people across this commonwealth care more about white feelings than Black killings,” Arthur said.

The measure was proposed by Republican Sen. Danny Carroll, a retired police officer from Benton who says protests over the last year show that police need more protection.

Senate President Stivers urged opponents to consider the bill from Carroll’s perspective as a former member of law enforcement.

“That’s the lens he looks through,” Stivers said. “It is tough in these situations where the emotions are running high as to what really the best course of conduct is to do.”

Senate Bill 211 passed out of the Senate last week but hasn’t yet been taken up by a House committee.

Time is running out on this year’s legislative session. Wednesday is the final day of session before Gov. Andy Behear’s 10-day veto period. Then lawmakers return for the final two days of the session on March 29 and 30 to consider overriding any vetoes or passing more bills.

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