Sponsor of ‘Safer Kentucky Act’ proposes amendments on fentanyl, homelessness

FRANKFORT, KY–Rep. Jared Bauman (R-Louisville), the main sponsor of the “Safer Kentucky Act” (HB 5), introduced a new floor amendment to the bill Wednesday. This includes a revision of charges related to fentanyl sales resulting in death, scaling them down from murder to manslaughter. Additionally, the amendment addresses the issue of homelessness by allowing individuals to temporarily sleep in legally parked vehicles on public roads, streets, or parking lots for up to 12 hours.

Other changes include:

Revision of Probation/Parole Eligibility: Establish new criteria in KRS Chapter 532 making certain defendants ineligible for probation or parole.

Carjacking Provision Amendment: Requires the act of carjacking to be performed without lawful authority.

Housing Program Funding Exemption: Statutorily created housing programs are exempted from funding limitations.

Involuntary Commitment Section Amendment: Modifications made to the section on involuntary commitment.

Expanded Definition of ‘Violent Offender’: Includes attempt to commit any listed offense, certain felonies involving death or serious injury, specific categories of burglary, robbery, arson, and strangulation.

Sentence Completion Requirement for Violent Offenders: Must serve at least 85% of the sentence before being eligible for early release.

Credit for Time Spent in Custody: Violent offenders only receive sentence credit for time spent in custody prior to sentence commencement.

Amendments for Protection Order Violations: Requires intentional, in-person violations for subsequent violations to be Class D felonies.

Uniformity in School Notification Requirements: Standardizes the notification process required by school personnel.

Conformity Amendments: Adjusts KRS 218.133 to align with the bill’s provisions.

Identifying Document Issuance Limitation: Based on the availability of funds.

Clarification in Shopkeeper’s Liability: Details civil liability in cases of suspected shoplifting.

The original “Safer Kentucky Act” (HB 5) faced considerable criticism from various advocates and community leaders. Critics argued that its provisions could exacerbate the problem of mass incarceration and disproportionately impact marginalized communities. Specifically, concerns were raised about the bill’s approach to fentanyl trafficking, equating drug-related deaths to murder, which was seen as a continuation of punitive war-on-drugs policies.

Additionally, the bill’s measures against homelessness, particularly the ban on street camping, were criticized for criminalizing poverty and failing to address the root causes of homelessness, such as the lack of affordable housing. Critics emphasized the need for more compassionate and effective solutions to these complex social issues.

The bill is expected to pass the House with Bauman’s amendments tomorrow and will proceed to the Senate, where it will likely see additional changes.

Read the floor amendment here

Read the full committee substitute bill here

Top photo: Rep. Jared Bauman, R-Louisville, (center); Rep. John Hodgson, R-Fisherville, (left); and House Majority Whip Jason Nemes, R-Middletown, listen as members of the House Standing Committee on Judiciary ask questions about House Bill 5, legislation related to crime. (LRC PIO)

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Paul Oliva is the Lexington Times Editor Emeritus. He grew up in Lexington.