Voting Rights Bill Heads To Senate For The First Time

Feb 19, 2014

Legislation providing a path for some non-violent felons to regain their voting rights overcame a long-standing hurdle Wednesday.

House Bill 70 emerged from a Senate committee for the first time, but not without major changes bill sponsors say alter the character of the legislation.

Sen. Rand Paul answers questions after testifying in favor of amended House Bill 70
Credit Josh James / WUKY

Following testimony from Sen. Rand Paul and bill sponsors, the Senate Committee on Local and State Government voted to advance the measure to the full Senate. Kentucky’s junior Senator told reporters it’s progress.

"I think they'll achieve a compromise, but I would say that we've gone a long way that was never voted on in the Senate, never had a hearing, to getting a hearing and getting a vote today. I think it's a huge step forward," Paul said.

But the Senate version of the House Bill adds five new provisions, among them a five year period where former felons must not commit another crime before they are eligible for voting rights and a measure rendering those with multiple prior offenses ineligible.

Bill sponsor Rep. Jesse Crenshaw argued the committee version eats away at the intent of House Bill 70. Sen. Damon Thayer said without the new additions the bill isn’t likely to go anywhere.

"I'm going to tell you that House Bill 70 unamended is not going to get called up for a vote in the Kentucky State Senate, so this is your best chance to keep this bill moving forward," Thayer said.

The bill passed committee with no dissenting votes.