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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Sen Wil Schroder: Crime and Punishment, ABLE Act, Kentucky Horse Park

Sen. Wil Schroder. LRC. 
By Wil Schroder 
Written on 3-4-16

As Thursday marked day 40 of our 60-day legislative session in Frankfort, Senate members are still anxiously awaiting a budget bill from our colleagues in the House.  In anticipation, we continue to prepare and educate ourselves on the impact of the Governor’s budget suggestions.  We also continue to pass legislation.  Below are some of the highlights from this week.

Did you know that currently in Kentucky the crime of attempted murder is considered a non-violent offense?  This Friday the Kentucky State Senate voted unanimously to change that with the passage of Senate Bill 207.  By changing the classification to a violent offense, those convicted of attempted murder will not be eligible for parole until 85 percent of their sentence is served.  Currently, as a non-violent offense, the parole eligibility requirement is only 20 percent.

Senate Bill 207 also addressed another crime and punishment issue, the Assault of a Service Animal in the First Degree.  Recently, there have been a few incidents where K-9s were stabbed or shot by criminals.  Strangely enough, the punishment for this crime is currently dependent on the outcome of the victim. If the K-9 is unable to return to work, the punishment is a Class D felony; however, if the K-9 returns back to work, the punishment drops to a Class B misdemeanor. Senate Bill 207 aligns the punishment of the crime with the intent of the criminal rather than with the successfulness of recovery.  This not only protects service animals such as K-9s and police horses, but it also makes the elements of the crime more consistent with other criminal statutes.  My sponsorship of Senate Bill 207 came about after talking to police officers and prosecutors about these two matters, and I am thankful for their support in seeing its passage.

This week the Senate also passed Senate Bill 179, better known as the “ABLE Act.” This bill allows parents of disabled children the opportunity to establish a bank account for their child’s disability-related expenses without fear of losing eligibility for federal benefits. I proudly sponsored this piece of legislation and found the work on this to be very rewarding. During debate on the floor, two of my Senate colleagues explained how this bill would personally impact their families in a positive way by allowing them to save for their children’s future.  This bill also passed with unanimous support.

Senate Bill 200, which passed this week, reorganizes the Kentucky Horse Park Commission to create better financial planning and accountability within the governing body while also offering better representation of those who use the park the most. This bill was in response to the recent findings of inappropriate spending and improper procurement procedures at the Horse Park.

Recently, an audit of the Kentucky Horse Park from 2010-14 raised several questions about the Horse Park’s transparency. Opponents of SB 200 argued that the audit occurred before the current director assumed his role. However, a letter received last week from Finance Cabinet Secretary Bill Landrum said the Horse Park followed improper procurement practices, and he identified more than $500,000 worth of purchases from an unnamed vendor that did not have a contract with the Horse Park. The situation was so serious that Secretary Landrum reduced the Horse Park's non-construction small purchasing authority from $20,000 to $1,000.

The Kentucky Horse Park is an iconic attraction for the Commonwealth, attracting thousands of worldwide visitors each year. I look forward to seeing these concerns addressed in the near future and believe SB 200 is a necessary step toward those changes.

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