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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Kentucky Senate Passes Bill To Make Attorney General's Race NON-PARTISAN, House Should Immediately Approve Measure.

Senate passes bill for nonpartisan attorney general
Written by Deborah Yetter

FRANKFORT, KY. — The Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would make Kentucky the only state with an elected nonpartisan attorney general.

Senate President Pro Tem Katie Stine, a Southgate Republican and the sponsor of Senate Bill 5, said she believes it is needed to take politics out of the job of attorney general, who serves as the state’s top law enforcement official and prosecutor.

“It just seems appropriate that it would be nonpartisan,’’ said Stine, speaking at a meeting of the Republican caucus before the vote. “There is no malevolent intent to call into question any current or previous attorney general.”

She said attorneys general are elected in most states in partisan races. They are appointed in a handful of states, she added.

But SB 5 lacks the support of one key former Kentucky attorney general, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a Prestonsburg Democrat, which means the bill is likely to die in that chamber. Stumbo said he “has never been for that bill,” spokesman Brian Wilkerson said.

SB 5 passed the Senate, where Republicans hold the majority, on a vote of 19-14, with 13 Democrats and one Republican, Sen. Damon Thayer of Georgetown, voting no.

The Senate also passed a resolution to create a task force to study overhauling the state’s juvenile justice laws and report back to the General Assembly next year. House Concurrrent Resolution 129 would create a task force of judges, lawyers and other juvenile justice officials to look for ways to update the state juvenile code that dates to the mid-1980s.

Sen. Tom Jensen, a London Republican, said the task force will give lawmakers a chance to review and improve laws dealing with juvenile criminal offenses as status offenders.

The Courier-Journal reported last year that Kentucky has one of the nation’s highest rates of jailing youths accused of status offenses — such as missing school or running away from home — even though those are not considered criminal offenses.

Advocates have argued that the state needs to find a better way to deal with such youths, whose status offenses generally stem from abuse, neglect, mental illness or other problems in the home.

HCR 129 passed unanimously and now goes back to the House for approval of a minor change in the Senate.

Also, the Senate gave unanimous approval to a bill meant to curb what lawmakers said is the growing scourge of theft of metal to be sold for scrap, particularly copper. Lawmakers said homes, churches and construction projects are increasingly targets of thieves who sometimes steal entire outside air conditioning units to sell copper parts.

“This has been a major plague in our community,” said Jared Carpenter, a Berea Republican, speaking in support of House Bill 390.

HB 390 would require people who sell scrap metal to be paid by check, not cash, and for scrap dealers who buy it to keep records of transactions.

It now goes back to the House for approval of a minor change in wording in the Senate.



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