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Ky. Senate Agrees to Amendment on HB 70; Sen. Rand Paul Endorses House Version23 Feb

On Feb. 19 the Kentucky Senate State and Local Government committee agreed to an amended version of HB 70 offered by Sen. Damon Thayer, the majority flood leader. Though the Catholic Conference had supported HB 70 for many years, it withdrew its support after Sen. Thayer amended it. We are now working to get it to a conference committee where the harm done by his amendment may be corrected.

FRANKFORT— U.S. Sen. Rand Paul speaks in favor of a voter rights restoration bill.  House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover, Ky. Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, and Rep. Jesse Crenshaw also spoke. 

U. S. Senator Rand Paul, Ky. Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, and the principal co-sponsor Minority House Floor Leader Rep. Jeff Hoover all testified on the importance of restoring voting rights, but did not endorse the Sen. Thayer amendment.

On Friday night at a Republican fundraiser in Louisville,  the Courier-Journal reported that they both supported the House version of HB 70, though Sen. Paul did remind everyone that at least the bill received a Senate hearing and can be improved when it is sent to a conference committee to resolve differences.  Here is what Commissioner Comer said:

“The House version accomplishes what we want to accomplish,” he said. “We want to get more people involved in the process and we want to do it right away.”

House Bill 70′s sponsor, Rep. Jesse Crenshaw spoke against the proposed changes, as did a final witness, Mr. Raoul Cunningham, President of the Louisville NAACP.

A host of others, including the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, signed in to speak against the proposed changes, but the committee chair, Sen. Joe Bowen of Owensboro, did not allow them to speak, saying there was not enough time to do so. Though committee meetings generally last two hours, this one ended well short of that.

In this opinion column that appeared in the Lexington Herald-Leader on Sunday, Feb. 23, Tomas Lopez, an attorney with the Brennan Center, and Fr. Delahanty describe the effect of the amendment:

The substitute bill would dilute HB 70 in three key ways: First, by barring people with certain offenses from restoring their voting rights. Second, even more importantly, by also excluding people with multiple prior felonies from voting. And third, by barring people from getting their rights restored if they committed a misdemeanor within five years of completing their sentence.

The Catholic Conference, as well as the Kentucky Council of Churches, the ACLU of KY, the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, the Ky. Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and others are working hard to find a way to convince lawmakers that the Senate version of HB 70 must not go on the ballot in November.

The Conference hopes you will call 1.800.372.7181 and leave a message asking your State Representative to refuse to concur with the Senate amendment; and a second message asking your State Senator to recede from the amendment when the House refuses to concur.

Here are some important links to articles and editorials regarding the proposed Senate amendment which, instead of promoting the common good as Catholic teachings urge us to do, promotes division among us and severely limits some from participating fully in the public life of the community.

Gutting of Felon Rights Bill Angers Backers – Courier-Journal report on Committee Hearing and Floor Vote
GOP Senate Makes Farce of Voting Rights Amendment – Lexington Herald-Leader
Thayer’s Wrecking Ball Takes Out Bill – Courier-Journal Editorial
Rand Paul backs House version of felon voting bill - Courier-Journal
Felons’ voting-rights bill on ropes despite Rand Paul’s push
– Joe Gerth’s Sunday Column.
Senate Made Mockery of Voting Rights Amendment: Sunday,  Lexington Herald-Leader
Comer liked original voting rights bill better, Paul said changed version still ‘a step forward’ – Report from Ryan Alessi, cn|2 Pure Politics

 Photo: Ky. Legislative Research Commission

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