Beshear Signs More Bills, Including Juvenile Justice Measure

Mar 26, 2021

Credit Ryan Van Velzer / WFPL

  Gov. Andy Beshear signed 29 more bills into law on Thursday, including a measure doing away with Kentucky’s automatic transfer law, which requires minors to be tried in adult court if they are charged with gun-related crimes.

Beshear also vetoed six bills, including a resolution ratifying some of his coronavirus-related executive orders in case laws stripping the Democratic governor’s emergency powers are upheld in court.

There are two more days for Beshear to approve or reject bills before the end of his 10-day veto period. Earlier this week he vetoed bills dealing with private school scholarship tax credits, weakening the state’s open records laws and stripping his power to fill U.S. Senate vacancies.

The Republican-led legislature will consider overriding Beshear’s vetoes when lawmakers  return for the final two days of session on Monday and Tuesday.

It’s very easy to override a governor’s veto in Kentucky, it only takes a constitutional majority—half the members of a chamber, plus one.

Below are some of the bills Beshear signed on Thursday, and those he vetoed:

Signed Into Law

Juvenile Justice

Senate Bill 32 allows judges to decide whether to transfer minors age 14 and older to adult court if they are charged with a crime involving a firearm. Under Kentucky’s current “transfer law,” judges are required to send juveniles to adult court to be prosecuted for a felony if a firearm was involved, even if the gun wasn’t used.

Kentucky and nearly every state in the country passed automatic transfer laws in the 1990s, during the tough-on-crime movement that sought to prevent “super predators.”

Supporters of the measure say the automatic transfer law has led to the over-prosecution of young Black people.

According to the ACLU of Kentucky, 53% of juveniles charged as adults in the state are Black, though just 8% of the state’s population is Black.

Cryptomining Incentives

Beshear signed House Bill 230 providing cryptocurrency mining companies tax breaks on their electricity bills and Senate Bill 255 providing incentives for cryptomining companies to make at least $1 million in upgrades on existing buildings.

Beshear said the industry may be a “huge part” of the state’s future.

“It’ll just be another tool in our tool kit for economic development. But again, to be used judiciously at the right time for the right deal that helps the commonwealth,” Beshear said

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are digital forms of money. Cryptomining is the process of using high-powered computers to verify transactions, a process that requires a lot of electricity.

Supporters of the legislation say cryptocurrency miners are searching for places with cheap electricity rates and incentives to set up shop.

Police Sex Crimes

Senate Bill 52 will make it a crime for police to have sex with people under investigation, under arrest or in custody.

Sponsors of the measure said a loophole in current law excludes police officers. The bill would amend the state’s rape, sodomy and sexual abuse laws to include on-duty police.

Vetoed

Coronavirus Orders

Beshear vetoed House Joint Resolution 77, which would ratify some of Beshear’s coronavirus-related executive orders, but not all of them, like the statewide mask mandate.

GOP lawmakers passed this measure in case Beshear’s lawsuit against bills stripping his emergency powers is unsuccessful.

Earlier this year, Beshear sued to block House Bill 1, Senate Bill 1 and Senate Bill 2 in Franklin Circuit Court. The resolution would extend some of Beshear’s pandemic-related orders dealing with unemployment, price gouging, quarantining after out-of-state trips and utilities, but would only go into effect if Beshear loses in court.

In his veto message, Beshear wrote that the measure is “a surrender in what I hope are the waning months of the COVID-19 pandemic when victory is in sight.”

Attorney General Powers

Beshear vetoed Senate Bill 251, which allows Attorney General Daniel Cameron to bring lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of state laws and regulations in any county, and allowing the leaders of the legislature to request that he intervene in lawsuits.

Beshear vetoed the bill, saying that it would allow the attorney general to “shop” for friendly judges.

“Justice requires a system that prevents this gaming. I am also vetoing Senate Bill 251 because it unnecessarily adds to government expenses by requiring state officials and their attorneys to travel to jurisdictions across the Commonwealth to defend litigation,” Beshear wrote in his veto message.