Republicans Continue to Push for Special Session on Police Reform

FRANKFORT, Ky. — It’s been a week since Senate Republican leadership expressed interest in a special session to address police reform and Republicans are still hoping they can get something done before they head into the 2021 legislative session. 

Senate President Pro Tempore David Givens, R-Greensburg, is urging Gov. Andy Beshear to call them into session sooner rather than later. 

“There is concern and anxiety across our land. And we need to address those things but we can’t call ourselves into special session where the policymakers, policy starts in the chamber of the House in the Senate, that legislative branch,” he told reporters Wednesday. “It’s up to the governor to call us and we’d be glad to go to work.”

Those on the other side of the aisle are supportive of a special session to address criminal justice reform but say they need to have a bipartisan deal in place before they are called into a $60,000 a day special session. 

“You’ve heard the majority say that they want the governor to call a special session and then go to work. Well that’s on the taxpayer dime, the way a special session works is to craft the policy, get all the agreement ahead of time so that we come in for a special session, we use the taxpayers money wisely,” said Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville. “Not go to work and start having those debates and those discussions. After the taxpayers are paying us to be here.” 

One bill Republicans and Democrats agree needs to be passed is a ban on no-knock warrants. Rep. Attica Scott, D-Louisville, has pre-filed a measure that would do just that, and Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, has announced he working on drafting a bill as well. Givens says they are open to discussing a bill on no-knock warrants and any other police reform measures. 

“Every voice is welcome and every voice is vital to the process, 138 opinions are certainly going to have a different breadth and different depth than one voice,” he said. “So we applaud every legislator engaging in the process, we’ll look at all those options.”

Democrats maintain if a special session is called it needs to tackle more than just police reform but also prison and criminal justice reform as a whole. 

“We need a holistic group of policies to look at,” said House Minority Floor Leader Rep. Joni Jenkins, R-Shivley. 

Some ideas Democrats are hoping could be addressed would be bail reform, ban on the use of chokehold restraints, creating an inspector general on criminal abuse cases, and creating a policeman Bill of Rights, as well as a citizen review board that would have subpoena power. McGarvey notes there are already drafts of bills for several of those measures. 

While Democrats are supportive of tackling some of these issues in a special session they don’t believe it should take place before the November General Election. 

“I would be hesitant for a special session two months before an election. I think that folks have the opportunity to choose who’s going to lead them for the next two years and to do something in last of this term seems a little hasty and uncalled for,” said Jenkins. “I don’t think at this point we have anything that’s worth running into special session and spending money with folks who could be lame ducks.”

Those in the majority power however say that time is of the essence. 

“Given the chance to come and address the policy their constituents want addressed, I truly believe we can relieve some of that anxiety,” Givens said. 

Beshear has said he is open to a special session if there is a plan in place before he calls lawmakers back to Frankfort.