Legislative Update Representative Rebecca Raymer
Public Safety Laws Passed this year
Each House committee serves an important purpose in ensuring positive legislation is passed through with proper discussion, public comment, and if need be, additional improvements to each bill. This week I wanted to discuss what we passed through the House Committee on Judiciary, which deals with issues that range from public safety, correctional facilities, judicial courts, criminal procedures, and more. This session, we passed several bills relating to public safety because our communities must be safe places Kentuckians can live and raise their families.
One such piece of legislation we passed into law is HB 249, also known as Kimber’s Law. This legislation adds to the list of aggravating circumstances the intentional killing of a child under 12 and provides that individuals convicted of a capital offense with an aggravating circumstance could face the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole. This legislation is about ensuring that those who commit the heinous crime of intentionally killing a child can receive a life sentence without parole or parole after 25 years. This law ensures justice for both the child and the child’s family.
We also passed HB 262, which toughens penalties for fatalities caused by driving under the influence by establishing the offense of vehicular homicide and provides that an individual arrested for a violation shall be detained in custody for at least six hours. In 2020, there were 199 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities, up 31.8% from 2019. In a state struggling with addiction, this is yet another symptom of a greater problem. It is heartbreaking that a person knowingly gets behind the wheel while under the influence and puts everyone else on the road in danger because of their choice. This legislation ensures people are held accountable for their actions and that victims get the justice they deserve.
Another bill we passed to increase public safety was SB 9, also called Lofton’s Law which establishes the crime of hazing in the first degree as a Class D Felony and a Class A misdemeanor for hazing in the second degree. Lofton’s Law is named in honor of 18-year-old Lofton Hazelwood, a college freshman who was found unconscious in his fraternity house after reportedly consuming a large quantity of alcohol. While a university investigation found that the death was not directly related to hazing, his tragedy brought attention to longstanding concerns about the safety of hazing.
Reports show that 55% of college students involved in clubs, teams, and organizations experienced some form of hazing. Hazing can take on many forms, from intimidation to harassment and even to violence, so we must do what we can to stop this from happening on our college campuses. It often goes unreported, which can worsen incidents over time and will continue to happen if it is not stopped. We are hopeful that with the passage of Lofton’s Law, students will see the severity of what they are doing, and it will come to a stop, and if it does occur, those who commit the crime will be punished.
As always, I can be reached here at home anytime, or through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181. Feel free to contact me via email at [email protected]. If you would like more information, please visit the legislature’s website at www.legislature.ky.gov.