A bill making the targeting of police officers and other first responders a hate crime is on its way to the governor's desk.
House Bill 14 - often labeled the "blue lives matter" bill by critics - received final passage in the Kentucky Senate Tuesday on a 33-5 vote. As in the House and committee, the measure prompted strong debate. Lexington Democrat Reggie Thomas and Taylor Mill Republican Chris McDaniel disagreed over the likely effect of the bill.
"We have this bill to chill and handcuff protests made by racial minorities," Thomas said, suggesting the measure represents legislative pushback against the Black Lives Matter movement.
Supporters read a different message into bill, one of solidarity with first responders and appreciation for the unique threats they face in the line of duty. "I fail to see how refusing shock probation to people who would deliberately kidnap, assault, rape, burn down the house of a police officer chills peaceful protest," McDaniel later argued.
Both backers and opponents praised the state's first responders, though skeptics warn the bill will sow more division in the commonwealth.
Kentucky is far from alone, with more than 30 similar bills being introduced in other states legislatures this year alone. With Gov. Matt Bevin's signature, HB14 would become only the second such bill to become law.