FRANKFORT, Ky. (ABC 36) – The Kentucky House Judiciary Committee passed a bill Wednesday that some call an attack on freedom of speech.
Representative John Blanton, a Republican from Salyersville, is sponsoring the bill.
He says it’ll help local prosecutors.
“Let me be perfectly clear…it’s not to de stifle someone’s civil rights to protest, to peaceful protest, it’s not to do that.”
House Bill 479 would give the Attorney General the power to prosecute minor offenses such as disorderly conduct, unlawful assembly and obstructing a roadway, as well as a few felonies.
Representative Blanton says it would be applied to every Attorney General, not just current AG Daniel Cameron.
Criminal Justice Attorney Ted Shouse, who represented Democratic State Representative Attica Scott of Louisville and her daughter after they were charged with rioting during the Breonna Taylor protests in Louisville…spoke against the bill, specifically section 5.
“It seems to me that this is designed as a response to the lawful and permissible social movements that occurred in Jefferson County last year, in response to the killing of Breonna Taylor” said Shouse.
Section 5 relates to crimes such a rioting, disorderly conduct, etc.
He added that it could be argued that the bill would allow the AG to recharge his clients, but Representative Blanton says that would not happen.
Other representatives also disagreed with the bill.
“It’s hard to see this as anything other than targeting people who are engaged in the vital work of first amendment right to assemble and protest…this is an absolute no from me” said Democratic Representative, Patti Minter of Bowling Green.
“We are hearing testimony that affects one of our colleagues, I’m appalled. This is so deeply disturbing that we’re treating one of our colleagues this way” added Republican Representative Mckenzie Cantrell of Louisville.
Representative Scott spoke as well.
“In the midst of this body claiming that it wants to address issues of racial justice and trauma and this bill being the exact opposite of that and an Attorney General that has done nothing but contribute to conflict across our commonwealth and instead should be focused on healing, I will be voting no.”
But after voting…the bill passed 13 to 5…and will now move to the house floor for consideration.