By Jacqueline Pitts, The Bottom Line
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, has been very vocal over the last week about issues he feels must be addressed to move Kentucky forward amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He has asked the governor to consider using federal assistance to help avoid a massive financial hit for Kentucky businesses as well as called on the governor to bring lawmakers back for a special session to deal with criminal justice/police reform issues.
Federal Funds for Drained Unemployment Insurance Fund
Stivers sent a letter to Gov. Andy Beshear on Monday asking him to use CARES Act funding to help pay for the more than $800 million loan the state has had to take out to replenish its depleted Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund.
The Senate President said he decided to go ahead with writing the letter after the Kentucky Chamber and other groups spoke up about the issue, as the fund currently has a balance of $0. Stivers noted the last time the state had to take out a federal loan for unemployment insurance benefits, it resulted in an increased financial burden on businesses and took around 10 years to pay back the full amount.
“We are in a much more fragile situation with our businesses today. And to put additional pressures on them…even if they haven’t had unemployment insurance claims because it will be across the board, it will be very difficult for many, many businesses to endure that type of pressure. And what I am afraid of, it will basically be that final straw that breaks their camel’s back and puts them out of business,” Stivers said (in the conversation through 5:08 in the video below).
Special Session to Address Civil Unrest in Louisville
Senate Republican leadership also held a press conference earlier in the week calling on the governor to call a special session to deal with criminal justice and police reform issues that have become more evident in the aftermath of the shooting of Breonna Taylor in Louisville. Stivers pointed to the civil unrest and impacts of the COVID-19 and said it is crucial for the state to come together to help the area.
“Louisville is almost 20 percent of our population statewide. It has a mission that goes beyond the geographic boundaries of Jefferson County,” Stivers said in an interview with The Bottom Line. “If we don’t have a strong Louisville, we are not going to have a strong state. So we have to help them rebuild.”
In response, Beshear said this week at a press briefing he could consider a special session on the issue if he was presented with specific legislation and there was consensus from both sides.
Stivers has been working on a bill to address the no-knock warrant issue and said it could be ready soon. His bill would ban the use of standalone no-knock search warrants and law enforcement agencies would have to use it as a secondary tool alongside an arrest warrant or any other type of search warrant. He noted the need for such warrants in instances such as a hostage situation or terrorist threat but added the no-knock warrants need to be carried out by those with tactical training, like a SWAT team.
Addressing Criminal Justice and Substance Use Disorder
Additionally, Stivers said it is more important than ever to address other issues within the state’s corrections system. When asked what some potential solutions could be, he said there should be an assessment that takes place when someone is arrested to ensure people with substance use disorder get the help they need rather than just ending up in the criminal justice system. Stivers stated this could be achieved by partnering with some of the many treatment centers across the state who are experts in the area. (Discussion starting at 15:00)
Watch the full interview with Senate President Stivers to hear his comments on the state’s struggles with unemployment insurance, civil unrest, and criminal justice below: