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Not enough time left for original Breonna's Law to pass Kentucky General Assembly

focus shifts to amending other no-knock warrant bill
Posted at 7:03 PM, Mar 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-10 19:03:07-05

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — Saturday, March 13, marks one year since Louisville police shot and killed Breonna Taylor.

"It’s just a few days away," said Representative Attica Scott. "It’s pretty heavy right now."

Scott is the lead sponsor for House Bill 21, known more commonly as Breonna's Law for Kentucky. The bill would ban no-knock warrants in Kentucky and enact other reforms, which is something people have been calling for in the wake of Taylor's death.

However, this specific bill - House Bill 21 - won't become law this year. There's not enough time for it to go through the legislative process because there are only a few days left in the 2021 legislative session. Even though the bill was filed in August 2020, it received its first discussion on March 10, 2021. And it was only up for discussion, not a vote.

"Realistically, in the limited time we have left - the realism of it is House Bill 21 is not out of committee yet," said House Judiciary Chairman Ed Massey at the beginning of Wednesday's meeting. "[It] would have to go through the whole process."

But there’s another bill that deals with no-knock warrants this year - Senate Bill 4. The bill does not ban no-knock warrants, but it limits them in how they can be obtained, how they can be used, and how they must be executed.

Senate Bill 4's sponsor, Senate President Robert Stivers, said the bill doesn't totally ban the warrants because police need them in certain situations.

"Think about this," said Stivers. "If there is a terrorist situation - there was something similar to this a few years ago in Bowling Green - do you really want to knock on the door?"

The bill has received bipartisan support and it's further along in the legislative process.

"I think Kentucky has to move forward on [no-knock warrants]," said Sen. Reggie Thomas. "We've taken a lot of heat as a state on this. And I think we have addressed this in the right way and we're moving forward."

The bill has already cleared the Senate and on Wednesday, it passed out the House Judiciary Committee. It now heads to the full House, meaning it has a shot at becoming law in 2021.

Representative Scott knows this. So, her goal now is to add components of Breonna's Law to Senate Bill 4.

"I mandate that there is an EMT - some type of ambulance service - that’s nearby the raid or where the no-knock is about to happen," said Scott. "It would also address some of the issues that were brought up around drug offenses being included in the categories of no-knock warrants being issued."

However, if Senate Bill 4 passes with its current title, it won’t have Breonna Taylor's name attached to it. Rep. Scott said the way the bill is currently written, it is not truly Breonna's Law.

"Without some of the amendments that [have been] offered, it’s not Breonna's law. It doesn’t come close to what was the very first Breonna's law that passed in Louisville," said Scott.

However, if lawmakers add the amendments Scott and other lawmakers have proposed, Taylor's name could be added to it.

"With some of the amendments, then yes, it would be ready to be Breonna’s law. But it’s not there yet," said Scott. "I'll go back home and I’ll ask people if that’s what they want but I’ve heard so far that yes, that is what people want."