Bill targeting drug traffickers clears second committee and is passed by full Senate
02/14/2017 01:02 PM
FRANKFORT – A bill which would increase sentences for drug traffickers was passed unanimously by the Senate Committee on Appropriations and Revenue on Tuesday morning, and then passed 36-0 later in the day by the full Senate.
Senate Bill 14, sponsored by Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, would push sentences back to the levels that were in place before House Bill 463 was passed in 2011. The legislation cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, but because it will cost the state more money had a second check through the Appropriations Committee Tuesday.
The legislation, if passed and signed into law, would require anyone convicted of trafficking in heroin or fentanyl to be charged as a Class C felony for a first offense. Currently, violations are a Class D felony.
In addition, any person convicted of a Class C felony offense or higher cannot be released on probation, shock probation, parole, conditional discharge, or other form of early release until he or she has served at least fifty percent of the sentence imposed in cases where the trafficked substance was heroin.
The former law enforcement officer has added a two gram threshold to the bill which would allow for those convicted of having fewer two grams to be eligible for parole after 20 percent of the sentence served.
Schickel, who voted for HB463 in 2011, says the unintended result has led to an increase in heroin use and trafficking in the state.
“It was a move to get people out of our jails and let them get treatment and we thought that this would lower cost and lower recidivism rates,” Schickel said. “The opposite has been true. The very next year after we passed House Bill 463, deaths from overdoses due to heroin went from below the national average to above the national average.
Schickel believes that state needs to allocate more money to corrections since it is one function the state is constitutionally required to do.
“The corrections budget is only 5 percent of the total state budget,” Schickel said. “We spend much more money, as a percentage of the budget, that aren’t constitutional responsibilities. Things such as Medicaid. And I would submit to you that because of our policies in regard to heroin, the Medicaid budget is going up because many of these people now are on Medicaid.”
Schickel also wants to call for an end to traffickers who might get lighter sentences because they are addicts.
“Trafficking in heroin is not excused because you are an addict,” Schickel said. “That has been the policy since we passed house Bill 463.”
Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, is a co-sponsor of the bill, and agreed with Schickel that being an addict shouldn’t lead to lighter sentences.
“We seem to be in a trend in Frankfort these days from legislating out personal responsibility for your actions,” Carroll said. “I think this bill is a prime example of where we need to be on that. Those who are addicts, I believe need to seek treatment. We need to make sure that treatment is available to them, but once you cross the line where you are dealing death to other people, then you need to be held accountable for those actions in a strict manner.”
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