Bill to toughen penalties for gang activities moves to House after passing Senate

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Kentucky Senate approved a bill Friday meant to fight criminal gang activity in the state, despite concerns that the measure unfairly targets minorities and isn’t supported by research.

House Bill 169 cleared the Senate on a 21-17 vote, with six members of the chamber’s Republican majority joining Democrats to oppose the bill. Among them were GOP Sens. Julie Raque Adams of Louisville and Jimmy Higdon, whose district includes a sliver of Jefferson County.

The measure now goes to the House.

An effort by Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, to require the state to assess the bill’s impact on minorities was turned back on the Senate floor. Neal later said he was worried that the bill, while well intended, would have a “disparate impact” based on race.

“Policy is being promoted here today … that is not fully vetted in terms of research,” he said.

The measure seeks to add harsher penalties and more prison time for people convicted of gang-related crimes. It also would change the definitions of gangs and gang activity.

The ACLU of Kentucky and Louisville Urban League are among those that oppose the bill; Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer supports it.

Supporters say the measure is needed to crack down on gang-related violence.

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