Lawmakers sent Marsy’s Law to ballot, override vetoes

The Kentucky General Assembly

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Kentucky lawmakers have finished work on a proposal that would add a series of crime victims’ rights to the state’s Constitution.

And the move immediately drew fire from one group, even before state voters cast their ballots on the issue.

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And lawmakers had their say on Gov. Andy Beshear’s vetoes as they wrapped up their session.

The Republican-led legislature returned to the state Capitol for its wrap-up session amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Lawmakers voted to override vetoes by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and took final action on a batch of bills sent to the governor.

Legislators are expected to return Wednesday, the last day of the 2020 session, to take up Beshear’s five line-item budget vetoes and revenue measures. Beshear issued those vetoes Monday.

The measure that will go back to voters is known as Marsy’s Law. It was returned to the statewide ballot during a flurry of action by lawmakers on Tuesday after the House approved the proposal. The Senate had approved it in February.

Marsy’s Law has been here before. Voters approved the amendment in 2018 but the state Supreme Court threw it out, because its entire text was not on the ballot approved by voters.

The proposal does several things, and includes some additions this time around. Besides giving rights to victims that basically are the same as those who are charged, the new version mandates victims be notified in advance of any sentence pardon or commutation.

Marsy’s Law has a lot of supporters, but others, like the American Civil Liberties Union warned the proposal is flawed.

“The ACLU of Kentucky firmly believes that crime victims deserve justice. At the same time, we oppose this effort to change Kentucky’s Constitution to include these supposed victims’ rights. The Marsy’s Law campaign is a national effort, backed by millions of out-of-state dollars, that seeks a specific list of changes to state constitutions that undermine a bedrock principle of our legal system: the presumption of innocence,” said ACLU-KY Staff Attorney Heather Gatnarek.

“Marsy’s Law uses inconsistent and confusing language that would create significant unintended consequences. We know this because other states that have implemented Marsy’s Law have faced many challenges, including a lack of transparency in the justice system; unlikely groups, like police departments, claiming victim status; and astronomical implementation costs,” Gatnarek continued.

Kentucky voters previously weighed-in on Marsy’s Law, but they weren’t given complete information on the ballot about what this change to Kentucky’s Constitution would mean. With the additional information now available, we hope voters will reject this measure.”

Mostly along party lines, the House and Senate overrode the governor’s previous vetoes of House Bills 150, 195 and 336. They now become law.

Citin the public’s right to know, Beshear vetoed HB 195 in late March. That bill id away with requirements for local governments in counties with less than 80,000 to post legal notices in their local newspaper.

House Bill 336 moves back the deadline on when candidates for governor must choose a running mate as lieutenant governor from January to August of an election year.

The Senate also voted to override Beshear’s veto of Senate Bill 2, the controversial Voter ID bill that requires voters to present government-issued photo identification in order to cast a ballot. Secretary of State Michael Adams pushed the proposal, but the ACLU of Kentucky and the state democratic party spoke out against it.

“Kentucky lawmakers continued to ignore the real problems facing the Commonwealth in the middle of a global pandemic by overriding a veto for a voter suppression measure.  


We remain concerned about the rushed timeline and lack of resources to implement this new law just months before a highly anticipated general election and in the middle of a national emergency. We are currently evaluating whether to seek court intervention to make sure every eligible voter can still cast a ballot under this oppressive measure. 


At a time when officials of both parties throughout the country are working together to ensure every eligible voter can safely participate in their elections, the Kentucky General Assembly is making it more difficult to vote. They have pushed this voter suppression measure in the name of election security, yet not a single proponent of this law has ever provided any instance of in-person voter fraud in Kentucky. Even worse, they insist on enacting this cruel measure that thousands of people cannot even comply with because many county clerks remain closed due to the novel coronavirus. 


This new law is fundamentally incompatible with the ongoing pandemic. Starting in July, the law will require all voters to include a photocopy of a photo ID to obtain an absentee ballot. This will force thousands of Kentuckians to leave home to get new IDs and make photocopies during a pandemic that many experts believe will continue throughout the year. This law will make voting more difficult, and potentially dangerous, for any Kentuckian who does not feel safe leaving their home during this pandemic – even for those who currently have a valid photo ID. 


Moreover, this measure requires spending at least hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars, as even Secretary of State Adams has stated. The same legislators who passed this law also recently passed significant budget cuts to critical programs. It is unconscionable that lawmakers are wasting money in search of a non-existent problem, instead of using Kentucky’s limited resources to ensure every person can safely vote in November. Kentuckians deserve a legislature that solves problems; not one that creates them,” ACLU-KY Legal Director Corey Shapiro said. 


“I’m disappointed that Republican legislators chose to override Governor Beshear’s very sensible veto of Senate Bill 2. This was a partisan political decision that is just another example of legislators caring more about winning elections than protecting the public. There is no evidence of in-person voter fraud in Kentucky. The goal of Senate Bill 2 was always about one thing: voter suppression,” Ben Self, chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party, said.   

The Senate also overrode Senate Bill 5, requiring a local government council to approve any tax increase proposed by a special taxing district, such as a sewer district or library board.

The House is expected to take up those overrides Tuesday night.