Neal sees additional provisions to felon voting restoration efforts as 'knife' to the heart of the bill

08/13/2014 05:50 PM

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story reflected a description of Rep. Jeff Hoover’s felon voting bill as having a five-year waiting period — an error made by the legislative research commission in their description of his bill online. Hoover’s bill does not contain the waiting period.

State Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, says “poison pills” added to the heart of felon voting restoration legislation last session corrupted the merit of the bill, and this upcoming session Neal will bring an unadorned version of the legislation.

Neal has already prefiled his version of the bill which would grant voting rights to felons as long as they have not committed certain acts such as: treason, murder, a sex crime, or bribery.

Last session, for the first time, the state Senate heard and voted on a bill to restore felon voting rights, but the bill which passed the upper chamber was heavily amended from the House version.

A conference committee to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bills was never assembled in the waning days of the session.

“When you put the negative in the bill — you put the inhibitor in the bill itself — you’re not progressing you don’t have a point to progress from it’s the floor it is the killer,” Neal said.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul came to Frankfort during the legislative session to offer his support of the bill, but Neal said his appearance only helped Paul and not the legislation or the community most affected.

“Rand Paul had absolutely zero effect upon that legislation. What he did gain was a platform to tell folks that I’m for this particular piece. What he didn’t talk about what the rest of the things were antithetical to at least the people I represent and many other people across Kentucky that would be unacceptable,” Neal said.

There is a racial disparity in the percentages of whites and blacks arrested for drug crimes — even though some reports show whites admit to using drugs at a higher rate.

Paul has talked about those statistics and reached out to the African-American community in West Louisville and around the country as he considers a bid for the White House. And Neal says the outreach is a political one.

“If they fully understood what those issues were would not support a Rand Paul. And you’ll find by in large most folks won’t. No matter what he does, but there will be those one or two or three percentage that is of concern,” Neal said. “Folks like me have a responsibility of calling him on that — calling people I represent and providing information and hopefully I’m more effective than his well funded machine — we’ll see.”

Watch what Neal has to say about corrections reforms including the war on drugs and marijuana legalization starting at 7:50 in the video.

Any legislation dealing with restoring felon voting rights would have to pass with three-fifths majority in both state chambers and then be placed upon the ballot for ratification by voters.


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