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First responder protection bill heads to Senate

FRANKFORT—Police, firefighters, and other first responders would be added to those protected by Kentucky’s hate crime statute under a bill approved today by the Kentucky House of Representatives.

House Bill 14, sponsored by House Majority Whip Kevin Bratcher, R-Louisville, would allow those who assault, kidnap, or commit certain other violent offenses against first responders to face stricter sentencing in court. Kentucky’s hate crime law currently covers crimes committed against people because of their race, color, religion, sexual orientation, or national origin.

HB 14 passed the House by a vote of 77-13. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, spoke in support of the bill, which he said is “very straight forward” in support of those who risk their lives to protect others.

“There are few, few individuals that have the courage to put on a badge every day and to protect each one of us so that we can go to work, so that our children can go to school, so that our spouses can function every day, safely,” said Benvenuti. “That’s what’s going on here, is a recognition that, unfortunately, in today’s society, we have folks that hunt our first responders.”

Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, said there are already strong penalties in Kentucky law for those who attack first responders. The state’s hate crime law is not meant to protect people based on occupation but on traits they carry either from birth or by belief, he said.

“So by passing this legislation we’re steering into a whole new area of hate crime, and where does that end?” said Wayne.

Bratcher closed the debate by saying he doesn’t know how anyone could vote against HB 14.

“You guys don’t know what’s in my heart, and I don’t know what’s in your heart—but I don’t know how in the world anybody can vote against this bill,” he said.

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