House passes "blue lives matter" bill as protestors disrupt proceedings

02/13/2017 10:24 PM

FRANKFORT – House Bill 14, which would give hate crime protections to police officers and emergency responders was passed by the Kentucky House of Representatives on Monday night by a 77-13 vote.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Bratcher, R-Louisville, adds the hate crime classification to offenses committed against peace officers, firefighters or emergency medical technicians.

Similar legislation passed in Louisiana last year where it adopted the “blue lives matter” name, a phrase Bratcher has tried to separate from his bill.

The “hate crime” designation means that judges have more discretion in denying probation and parole boards have more discretion to deny parole.

Rep. Attica Scott, D-Louisville, one of 13 Democrats who voted against the legislation, voiced her concerns that the bill would have negative effects for African-Americans as well as protesters.

“I’m concerned that HB 14 will give this kind of fearmongering a license to charge me with a hate crime for doing what my ancestors did during the Civil Rights Movement —standing up for the diversity of our state and the most vulnerable of our communities,” Scott said.

Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, said the arguments against the bill were off base and felt that the legislation works to recognize first responders for what they do.

“The message you will send with a yes vote today is that you will not tolerate the hunting of first responders, of the men and women who will come and lay down their lives for you,” Benvenuti said.

Kentucky already has stronger penalties for assaulting police officers, which is a felony and prosecutors can seek the death penalty for those who kill a police officer.

In referencing the killing of police officers around the country, Bratcher expressed his disappointment with the legislators who voted against the legislation.

“I don’t know what’s in your heart, but I don’t know how anybody could vote against this bill,” Bratcher said.

As Rep. Donna Mayfield, R-Winchester, explained why she voted yes on the legislation, approximately 20 protesters in the gallery interrupted with shouts of black lives matter as they marched out of the gallery, escorted by Kentucky State Police officers.

House Speaker Jeff Hoover expressed disappointment with the protesters saying that their only goal was to make a lot of noise which he classified as rude and disrespectful.

“This was an orchestrated plan by them all along, you could tell, for them to walk out and hold up their posters and make the scene that they did,” Hoover said.

HB14 now moves on the Senate for consideration.


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