Updated: Feb 14, 2021
Bevin made a real mess of things his last few days in office. He issued what seems to be an exorbitant amount of pardons, several of which seem to be questionable for many reasons. Some look like pay-for-play selling his pardon powers (Bevin's Campaign owes Bevin Money as he loaned himself money to run and it appears to some degree tried to recoup any amount of that he could), some appear to be out of spite in locations he thought it would damage a community he had a political foe in, and others just seems to have not been well thought out or justified. The last count we saw, his pardons had reached up to 650, but who knows if they are done cataloguing them all over the at the SOS, we seem to keep hearing something new every week about Bevin's pardons. The Senate, and the Kentucky Attorney General have both asked for investigations into Bevin's pardons be conducted by the US Department of Justice/FBI. These are Republicans asking for another Republican's actions to be investigated. Bevin has become a real embarrassment to this state, and its hard to find anyone that would outright defend him today, in fact we would not be surprised if he is in orange or stripes by the time this is all over with, but we are sure there are a few still out there, there always are.
With these pardons causing such an uproar at least one bill has been introduced to address concerns with a Governor conducting themselves in this manner on the way out the door. Senator Chris McDaniel (R) has introduced SB 58 which would propose a Constitutional Amendment to limit a Governor's pardon authority around the election season. Thirty days prior to an election up until the 5th Tuesday after an election (the date of inauguration if there is a new governor) the current sitting governor's pardon authority is suspended. This is to force the Governor to stand accountable to the people for his pardon's before an election and not have this what appears to be haste induced, pay-for-play, spite driven pardon process ever happen again. If the pardon is valid and just a Governor should have no problem defending it.
If the legislature passes SB 58 then it would go to the voters for approval to amend section 77 of the Kentucky Constitution to require this temporary suspension of the Governor's pardon powers during the election process. We understand that people may argue that suspending it around an election is bringing politics into, yet it looks like Bevin allowed that anyway, so we have no problem with the response being that a governor must justify pardons and stand accountable to the people for them if they want to be reelected. So we support this bill allowing the people to have a say in this Constitutional issue.
Now if you were to read the news you would think there were multiple bills in response to the Governor's Pardon Abuse; however, that is not the case, some legislators are hijacking the mess Bevin made and calling their bill a solution or response to the problem. They are attempting to pass Marsy's Law as a response to the Governor's actions, never let a good crisis go to waste as they say. Marsy's Law is legislation that would amend the Constitution to create a section of the Constitution for a Crime Victim's Bill of Rights. We have detailed before why this is a bad idea as it begins the process of chipping away at Due Process. The reason they say that it needs to be passed is that the victims of those receiving pardons were not notified of their release.
The original Marsy's Law (which was subsequently ruled unconstitutional for its vague and misleading wording when presented to the voters for amendment to the Constitution) did not address the issue of pardons and how it relates to victims and there in lies the problem with trying to code the Constittuon, something new or something someone didn't think of will always pop up and thus we have to open up the Constitution again for more fiddling around with.
We would also like to point out that in 1998 Kentucky adopted a Crime Victims Bill of Rights, that covers much of what is in Marsy's Law, it is in our statutes under KRS 421.500-576. We are not opposed to these provision in the law, they are necessary, but the way Marsy's Law is written it will damage everyone's Constitutional Right to Due Process. In KRS 421.500-576 notification of pardon/commutation/clemency is not mentioned and it should be. We can specualte the reason it wasn not originally listed as a reason for notification is technically the crime never happened under a pardon. One would think the legislators would make sure there is a bill out there to add pardon's to the reason for notificaiton under KRS 421.500-576 inseated of hanging their hat on a bill that requires a vote on the people and may not meet Constitutional muster yet again. If they really wanted to make sure the victims that are invovled in pardon cases are never negatively effected again they would create such a bill this session.
One almost wonder's if this whole Pardon Mess by Bevin wasn't orchestrated for the benefit of Marsy's Law and its passage. Nothing gets people to act faster than outrage.
So in closing we support SB 58, but are opposed to SB 15 - Marsy's Law. Bevin already made a big enough of a mess on on his own, lets not compound it any further.