Attorney General Andy Beshear lays out path on key initiatives; sees positive future for Ky. Democrats
01/22/2016 08:35 AM
In his first weeks as Kentucky’s attorney general, Andy Beshear has appeared before lawmakers several times pushing key initiatives for his office and the state.
As one of only two Democrats elected to statewide office, Beshear hopes lawmakers can come together this session in a bipartisan manner.
In the first three weeks of session and his time in office, Beshear has come before the House Judiciary Committee twice advocating on behalf of vulnerable victims and asking for lawmakers to grant his office the ability to prosecute cases of human trafficking.
In an interview during his first week in office, Beshear explained his plan to engage with the General Assembly as a way to enact his agenda to protect seniors, safeguard kids from neglect and abuse, find workable solutions to drug addiction and ensuring victims of sexual assault find justice in Kentucky’s courts.
A bill allowing child sexual assault victims to testify about continuing patterns of abuse instead of having to remember specific dates and places where the abuse occurred drew Beshear into a House committee during his second week in the post.
“Under the current law, as the Supreme Court says, that little girl has to describe every single instance with a type of specificity that is not only traumatic to our kids, but is difficult for a child to do regardless,” he told Pure Politics. “This is a loophole that we have got to close.”
The legislation, also backed by Senate Judiciary Committee chair and former political opponent Sen. Whitney Westerfield, has cleared the House, and the Senate has passed their version of the bill.
Justice for victims
Beshear will also be pushing for more action from the General Assembly on a backlog of untested rape kits.
An audit performed last year found that 3,090 untested kits exist in the state. A grant will help clear the backlog and get the kits tested, but Beshear said that work does not end there.
“This is about seeking justice for the victims,” Beshear said. “We’ve got the investigation and prosecution of all these, which have their own cost, that I want to make sure in this session that we set money aside for.”
Beshear pledged to prosecute every single case that comes from the untested kits.
“We will prosecute every single one of these cases that we can. That’s my commitment,” he said. “If we have to take every one of my people and put them on these cases we’ll do it because that’s what they deserve.”
While he faced off against Westerfield in the campaign for the office of attorney general, Beshear said he’s already talked with the Hopkinsville Republican about working together on this issue.
“We ran against each other, but this is an issue that we agree on,” he said.
The future for Kentucky Democrats
Much of the beginning of the legislative session has been spent with the GOP focused on reducing Democratic opposition in the state House, and attempting to take control of the chamber for the first time since 1921.
With House lawmakers facing re-election bids in 2016, Beshear is predicting that Democrats will hold their majority, but he said the partisan make up will swing from time to time.
“I think the pendulum swings in a state like Kentucky often,” he said.
Even as that pendulum drifts to the right, Beshear said that the power of incumbency and solid lawmakers will ensure Democrats position themselves to win in November.
Still, with much of the efforts at the start of the session spent trying to avoid primaries, and calls for historic days ahead, Beshear hopes that the real work is not left unfinished.
“I hope in all of the political theater that were seeing that there is just as much work on getting those important things done because we’ve got too many issues,” Beshear said.
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