Gov. Beshear Signs Legislation to Increase Public Safety

FRANKFORT, Ky. (April 4, 2023) – Today, Gov. Andy Beshear announced he has signed nine pieces of legislation that increase public safety by supporting law enforcement and better protecting victims of violent crimes and children while at school.

“We are building that better Kentucky we all want when we work to protect our law enforcement officers, crime victims and our children in school,” Gov. Beshear said. “I am proud to sign bills that will help make our communities safer.”

House Bill 401
The Governor signed House Bill 401, sponsored by Rep. David Hale of Wellington, which provides the Kentucky State Police (KSP) the organizational structure to align the resources and personnel needed to store, manage and retain the audio and video footage captured by their new body camera recording system.

This legislation builds off of action the Governor took in April 2022, when he signed into law two pieces of legislation making historic investments in law enforcement, including $12.2 million he recommended in his state budget for KSP to purchase a body camera recording system.

“These body cameras are a critical step forward,” said Gov. Beshear. “I am proud that we are taking action to boost public transparency, accountability and trooper safety.”

“We appreciate the Kentucky State Police for their tireless efforts as the state’s law enforcement agency, as well as their commitment to transparency and accountability,” Rep. Hale said. “HB 401 provides the statutory authority to provide oversight over the use of body cameras as well as establishing a record-keeping process. The body camera initiative, funded by the legislature in the current budget, is the next step in ensuring the safety of our officers and the public.”

House Bill 207
Sponsored by Rep. Kevin Bratcher of Louisville, House Bill 207 allows law enforcement agencies the ability to create their own wellness programs to support the mental health and wellbeing of both sworn and civilian personnel. All sessions and information discussed within wellness programs remain confidential under counselor-client privilege.

“We know that mental health is critical to maintaining a healthy and successful work-life balance,” Gov. Beshear said. “The situations and emergencies our law enforcement officers respond to daily are things that most of us cannot imagine. A majority of the time, our officers are interacting with Kentuckians on their worst day, so it’s essential that we ensure they are mentally healthy and have addressed any trauma they’ve experienced.”

“Police officers work to protect our communities from harm and protect our most vulnerable citizens. With wellness concerns increasing within police departments, we must ensure programs are in place for them when they need help,” Rep. Bratcher said. “We must work to offer mental health resources to our officers so they can get the help they need and that there are early intervention systems in place before something happens to an officer. Departments understand their police officers better than anyone else, so this law will allow departments to create programs to best fit their needs.”

House Bill 115
The Governor signed into law House Bill 115, sponsored by Rep. Bill Wesley of Ravenna, which makes an assault against a police dog or an electronic storage device detection K-9 a Class D felony. Electronic detection dogs assist with locating hidden electronic storage devices that may contain harmful materials, such as child sexual abuse material or evidence of other criminal activity. KSP leads the way with two electronic storage device detection dogs out of only 85 in the United States.

“Twenty years ago, I would never have believed there would be a dog that could find hidden USBs and hard drives in a home, but with advancements across the world, we can use canines to find technology,” Rep. Wesley said. “Currently, the state has two of these dogs in police service and they work with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. I have worked with other K-9s in police forces across the state with all types of training and tracking abilities. The electronic tracking dog is a whole different type of service animal and is very new to the field of K-9 service animals. Adding these types of K-9s to the definition of a service dog ensures they have the same protections as other types of animals within police service. K-9s are a crucial part of a working police force, and we must advocate for their safety, and I look forward to how this law will offer those protections.”

House Bill 373
Sponsored by Rep. John Blanton of Salyersville, House Bill 373 makes necessary changes to peace officer professional standards (POPS) to enhance public safety. This bill expands on legislation from last year that made any felony or misdemeanor sex crime that has been expunged a disqualifying factor for certification as a police officer or court security officer. The Kentucky Law Enforcement Council is also provided the authority to subpoena, or to request a court to subpoena, records necessary to investigate the conditions of an officer’s separation. Such information obtained during an active investigation remains confidential.

HB 373 requires that part-time telecommunicators, in addition to full-time telecommunicators, now be certified by the Kentucky Law Enforcement Council. The Kentucky Law Enforcement Council is also required to certify alcohol beverage control investigators appointed before April 2019. The bill also strengthens recruitment efforts by permitting an officer who has been on inactive status for less than one year to return to certification without additional training requirements.

“This law will make it easier for the Kentucky Law Enforcement Council to eliminate bad actors within the law enforcement community by revoking their POPS certification if they have committed a crime or misdemeanor,” Rep. Blanton said. “Also, if county judges choose to use arrest power given to them in statute, they must have POPS certification. While this bill was primarily a clean-up bill, it will help make our communities safer and law enforcement stronger.”

House Bill 64
Sponsored by Rep. Wade Williams of Earlington, House Bill 64 allows law enforcement officers to be out of employment for a full year before having to redo their POPS certification and attend the academy. The current time limit is 100 days. This bill makes it easier for retired officers to reenter the workforce and helps local school districts and local police departments attract and hire highly qualified peace officers.

“With workforce shortages across the board in state and local law enforcement, this legislation aims to strengthen our workforce,” Rep. Williams said. “Those with POPS certification can work many jobs in law enforcement and even school resource officers. HB 64 ensures that the men and women who worked hard for their certification can retain it for up to a year and find another job that best suits them.”

Senate Bill 79
Gov. Beshear signed Senate Bill 79, sponsored by Sen. Julie Raque Adams of Louisville, which strengthens protections for survivors of domestic violence. This legislation will create the Safe at Home Program to allow victims of domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault, rape and human trafficking to conceal their addresses from public documents. This bill also removes the requirement that survivors must have an emergency protective order to hide their addresses on public records.

“I am grateful to Gov. Beshear for signing SB 79 into law,” said Secretary of State Michael Adams, who supported the legislation. “Safe at Home will help ensure survivors of domestic violence get the protection they deserve.”

Senate Bill 282
Sponsored by Sen. Denise Harper Angel of Louisville, Senate Bill 282 benefits victims of violent crime in Kentucky by increasing crime victim compensation awards for lost wages, loss of financial support, medical and mental health counseling expenses and funeral/burial expenses. It also benefits victims of hit-and-run accidents, who now will be eligible for awards. Additionally, funeral homes, medical providers, pharmacies, mental health providers and any other providers of medically necessary treatment arising from a crime will be more fully reimbursed for outstanding bills or invoices owed to them by victims of crime.

“Since my time serving as attorney general, I have fought to protect victims of violent crimes, and I am pleased to see that the commonwealth will be doing more to help them recover and rebuild their lives,” Gov. Beshear said.

“I am thrilled to see Senate Bill 282 signed into law by the Governor, marking a significant victory for victims of crime across our state,” said Sen. Harper Angel. “The award caps from the Crime Victims Compensation Fund have remained stagnant for far too long, creating undue financial hardship for those who have already suffered immeasurable loss. By increasing the caps for lost wages, funeral and burial expenses and medical and mental health counseling expenses, this bill provides much-needed relief and support to victims. This law is a vital step forward in ensuring that victims of crime receive the financial support they need to recover and move forward.”

Senate Bill 268
Sponsored by Sen. David Yates of Louisville, Senate Bill 268 allows restitution in the form of child support to be ordered for a minor child if a defendant is convicted of driving under the influence that results in the death or permanent disability of the child’s parent or guardian.

“No child should lose a parent or guardian to someone else who is driving under the influence,” Gov. Beshear said. “We hope this bill will deter individuals from driving under the influence and will better support children who are victims of this crime.”

“As the sponsor of Senate Bill 268, I am thrilled to see Melanie’s Law signed into action,” said Sen. Yates. “This law will provide much-needed support for families who have lost a parent due to the reckless actions of a drunk driver. It ensures that those responsible for the tragedy will not only face criminal charges but also provide financial support for the children left behind. By allowing for restitution by child support, this law brings justice and relief to the families impacted by DUI accidents.”

House Bill 331
The Governor signed House Bill 331, sponsored by Rep. Ruth Ann Palumbo of Lexington, which requires all middle and high schools in Kentucky to have at least one automated external defibrillator (AED) and at least three staff members and all athletic coaches to be trained on the AED. The bill also ensures all coaches maintain CPR certification.

“I am proud to support this bill which ensures that Kentucky public schools have a lifesaving device nearby in case of a heart-related medical emergency, especially during athletic events,” Gov. Beshear said. “In the event of an emergency, we want to make sure our schools have the training and tools they need to possibly save a life.”

“Sudden cardiac arrest is an unexpected loss of heart function and a life-threatening emergency that must be treated within minutes, said Rep. Palumbo. “With access to an automated external defibrillator, and trained coaches and school personnel, the lives of young students in Kentucky will be saved under this law.”

The Beshear-Coleman administration’s top priority is the safety of all Kentuckians. The Governor’s public safety actions are creating safer communities and a better Kentucky now and into the future.

Recently, Gov. Beshear signed three pieces of legislation that support law enforcement and increase public safety. Senate Bill 89 allows reemployment of retired individuals as police officers from the Police and Fire Retirement Fund; House Bill 380 expands the eligibility of potential peace officers to include individuals who are not yet 21 years of age but will reach this statutory requirement by the time certification is completed; and House Bill 540 increases the number of peace officers in the commonwealth’s private and parochial schools, as well as public schools, creating consistency of expectations across different types of schools. Due to this bipartisan effort, Kentucky is now able to increase recruitment of peace officers throughout the commonwealth and create a safe learning environment for all students to thrive, grow and reach their dreams.

To further increase the safety of Kentucky’s children, this year, the Governor signed legislation that strengthens child abuse, neglect and human trafficking reporting requirements, clarifies the legal definition of incest and ensures that registered sex offenders cannot come within 1,000 feet of a high school, middle school, elementary school, preschool, publicly owned or leased playground or licensed day care facility.