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Government & Politics

What One Representative Expects to Pass in the Next Kentucky General Assembly

Dewayne Neeley
Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Kentucky lawmakers may once again consider restoring voting rights for those who have committed low-level felony offenses in the next General Assembly session.

Daviess County Rep. Tommy Thompson says he hopes the 2015 legislature will join the majority of other states that give voting rights back to those who have served time for non-violent felonies.

“They’ve paid their debt back to society, they’ve served all of their probation, and they would simply like to get their rights back—their rights being their opportunity to vote and hunt, for example,” Thompson said. “Now in Kentucky, that’s not possible after they serve their debt to society. They have to petition for a pardon and those are hard to obtain, and very few given out.”

Three bills have been filed ahead of the 2015 General Assembly that would automatically restore the voting rights of certain felons once their sentences and probations were completed.

Those bills would require a Constitutional amendment that would need the support of 60 percent of lawmakers and ratification by Kentucky voters.

The Democratic-controlled Kentucky House has passed versions of the bill for several years, only to see the legislation die in the GOP-led Senate.

One measure unlikely to pass in the next session though is expanded gambling. The topic has been a source of contention for several years, with Governor Steve Beshear making it one of his top legislative priorities.

But Beshear has indicated that he doesn’t feel like gambling supporters are united in how they should proceed, lessening the odds of success in 2015.

Rep. Thompson says he hopes lawmakers will spend their time on other topics during the next session.

“Unfortunately, for the last 10 years that subject has come up every session, and it consumes a lot of time with no action,” he said. “But it would have been nice if we could have dealt with it one way or the other. But, I don’t see a lot of traction for that, particularly in this short session.”

Thompson predicts lawmakers will pass a bill next session dealing with the state’s rising heroin problem.

Deaths related to the drug have increased greatly in the commonwealth, and Thompson thinks a measure strengthening penalties for dealers while boosting treatment options for addicts has bi-partisan support.

“I sense some interest and support in both chambers to do something about that, so I really expect that to definitely be one of the pieces of legislation we pass in the 2015 session.”

Thompson says he’s in favor of passing a measure that would increase treatment options for addicts while also strengthening penalties for heroin dealers.

Beshear has also expressed his hope that such a bill will pass through the next legislature.

A report published by the state’s Office of Drug Control Policy showed that nearly one-third of all overdose deaths in Kentucky last year were due to heroin.

The 2015 legislature convenes Jan. 6. 

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