State Sen. Danny Carroll plans to re-file his bill, which would increase punishment for crimes committed during a riot, in the next session of the Kentucky Legislature after it failed to pass both chambers this session.
Senate Bill 211, which was approved by the Senate but did not make it out of committee in the House before the session ended, contained a provision regarding the taunting of a police officer that generated controversy.
The provision — relating to disorderly conduct — would make it illegal to taunt a police officer to the point in which it provokes a violent response.
“The main issue that we faced was the changes in the evolution of the bill while it was in the Senate,” said Carroll, a former police officer. “We did a discussion-only hearing first with the bill, and we ended up making some changes after that to accommodate some concerns.
“So, we were late getting the bill processed through the Senate and voted on. I knew it was a risk and I think once it got to the House, there were members that had questions and felt like we needed more discussion and there just simply wasn’t time to get that through.”
The Benton Republican said he has a commitment from the chairman of the House judiciary committee to work with him during the interim (between sessions) to make improvements.
“That (make it better) was what we had hoped from the beginning, to get to the House, make some changes to make it stronger,” he said. “I’m disappointed but that is part of the process, especially when you have a bill of this magnitude ... with some revisions controversial. I look forward to conversations through the interim and getting the bill better than it is now.”
According to Carroll, the riots that occurred last summer in Louisville, and what happened in January at the U.S. Capitol were motivating factors in the filing of his bill.
“This country was built on lawful protests and it’s something that we must maintain, our citizens’ right to do so,” said Carroll, when discussing the bill before the Senate Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs & Public Protection prior to action by the full Senate.
“What this deals with is those who ‘cross the line’ and commit criminal acts. We saw this in many cities throughout the country, during the summer, we saw it in Louisville, we saw it in our Capitol in Washington, D.C.”
The need for the bill “crosses political lines, it crosses racial lines, it’s not aimed at any one particular segment of this commonwealth or any community,” Carroll told the committee. “It is to protect our first responders, it is to protect our communities, protect the property and that’s both public and private.”
Ryan Straw, of the Kentucky Fraternal Order of Police, also spoke to the committee in favor of the bill.
State Sen. David Yates, a Louisville Democrat and former Louisville city councilman, told the committee he feared the bill “tramples” on Constitutional protections of free speech.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky also expressed opposition to the bill as an attempt to stifle dissent in response to 2020 protests and the handling of the Breonna Taylor murder investigation.
The disorderly conduct provision is just one of many contained in the legislation.
Carroll said he will be ready to re-file the measure when legislators can begin pre-filing bills prior to the beginning of the next session, “so we can get it moving early in the 60-day session.”
“I feel like we had the support in the House to pass it,” he said. “I had talked to several legislators throughout the process and there were a few of them that were working on issues related to anti-riot type legislation. I think there is a consensus, at least within the conservative Republican caucus, that we need to do something and pass some legislation.
“It’s just (a matter of) getting through the debate and getting the legislation itself, the provisions, pinned down.”