Legislative Update: Corrections reform bill and LIFT legislation pass through committees

Corrections reform bill clears committee

A bill to reclassify some Class D felonies by creating a new misdemeanor category was passed through the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday after testimony from bill sponsor Rep. Brent Yonts, the Kentucky Chamber and other groups.

Yonts said the bill creates a new misdemeanor category, gross misdemeanor, which includes three types of low-level, non-violent, non-sexual offenses that are currently classified as Class D felonies including Flagrant Non-Support, Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument II and Forgery II.

Yonts said the legislation could save the state around $21 million.

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In the committee meeting Wednesday, Kentucky Chamber Public Affairs Acting Vice President Ashli Watts expressed the business community’s support of the legislation because of the need to slow the growth of corrections spending in the state budget laid out in the Chamber’s 2009 “Leaky Bucket” report.

The Leaky Bucket showed that we were spending too much money locking up non-violent offenders and this money could be going to more positive areas, such as education. Watts noted that data shows it costs more to put someone in prison for a year than to send them to a state university of or community and technical college.

Watts testified that there are smarter ways to tackle crime that have better outcomes and save the state money. Watts said this bipartisan corrections reform bill does that.

Jason Hall of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky noted the fiscal benefit to the state and said he believes this is a way to provide a sentence for offenders without saddling them with a felony for the rest of their lives, making them unable to re-enter society and be productive.

The Kentucky Council of Churches also spoke in support of the legislation, noting the ideals of forgiveness and fairness as a component of legislation like this one.

House Bill 412 now heads to the full House for a floor vote. Read more details about the legislation and the coalition supporting it here.

LIFT enacting legislation passes

House Bill 375, a bill with enacting language for the local option sales tax initiative passed through the House Local Government Committee Wednesday, moving it to the floor after the constitutional amendment for the proposal cleared the first legislative hurdle this week.

DSC_0043House Bill 2, the constitutional amendment to give local communities the option to place an additional sales tax of up to one percent on the ballot for voter approval, passed the House Committee on Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs Monday.

The local option sales tax proposal, also known as LIFT (Local Investments For Transformation), would allow local governments to use the additional sales tax to pay for voter-approved local investments. When the projects are finished, that increase would sunset.

Get more information about the Kentucky Chamber-supported measure on Bottom Line.

Both bills now head to the House floor.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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