FRANKFORT, Ky. — Legislation that would primarily increase the punishment for crimes committed during a riot passed the Kentucky Senate on Thursday by a 22-11 vote.
Senate Bill 211 “comes in response to the riots that occurred across our country during this past summer including in our own flagship city of Louisville …,” said Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Benton, who introduced the measure. “These are riots that led to billions of dollars of damage, injury and loss of life. The goal of Senate Bill 211 is to help protect our communities, protect our first-responders and protect public and private property.”
Named the Community and First Responder Protection Act, Carroll said SB 211 would discourage out-of-state agitators from inciting riots in Kentucky.
Carroll said another section of SB 211 would provide consequences for local governments who are grossly negligent for failing to protect the personal safety and property of their residence. He said a third section would discourage local governments from attempts to defund law enforcement agencies.
Sen. Gerald A. Neal, D-Louisville, said many of the events took place in his district, but SB 211 wasn’t the answer to the systemic problems the activities highlighted. He said there are already laws on the books to deal with riotous behavior.
“There is so much wrong with this bill, I could stand here for an hour or two to talk about it,” Neal said, “or I can put it into one word. It is an overreach.”
Other legislators expressed concern over a section of the bill regarding whether someone could be arrested for directing offensive or derisive words toward police officers. Carroll said he would be working with House members to amend that section to alleviate some of those concerns.
Carroll added that he would support peaceful protesters until he drew his last breath. He then listed several bills that are moving through the legislative process that address some protesters’ concerns.
Those bills include:
Senate Bill 4 to curtail the use of no-knock warrants;
Senate Bill 10 to establish a commission on race;
Senate Bill 80 to make it easier to remove bad police officers;
Senate Bill 270 to produce more African American teachers;
and House bills 587 and 588 to revitalize Louisville’s West End.
“I will not support, or condone, or tolerate anyone’s right to riot and terrorize, assault, destroy, abuse,” Carroll said. “I’ll never defend anyone’s right to do that. You can twist this bill around all you want. The language is very simple and very clear as to what it addresses.”
He said state leaders couldn’t let a repeat of the Louisville riots occur.
SB 211 now goes to the House of Representatives for its consideration.