Senate passes bill limiting Kentucky governor's pardon power

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WYMT) - You could have the chance to amend the state constitution by limiting the governor's power to pardon people. That measure passed the Kentucky Senate Wednesday.

It is common for outgoing governors to pardon a lot of people. Former Governor Steve Beshear issued numerous pardons, but it was not until former Governor Matt Bevin pardoned hundreds, including murderers, rapists and drug offenders, that many said action needed to be taken.

"The article starts out by saying in 2007, during his last hours in office, Governor Ernie Fletcher made state history by issuing 101 sentence commutations or pardons," said Senator Chris McDaniel (R-Taylor Mill). "We vest in one person, who stands accountable to no one, the authority to free everyone on death row."

McDaniel's bill would put the question to voters, only allowing pardons leading up to the gubernatorial election and limiting them "during the 30 days prior to an election and in-between a gubernatorial election and the swearing in," McDaniel explained.

Senator Morgan McGarvey has been quite critical of former Governor Bevin's actions to pardon, even calling for a widespread investigation. He voted for the bill, but asked for an amendment dealing with death penalites and how the window of time being limited could adversely affect someone about to be executed. That amendment was defeated on the Senate floor.

The constitutional amendment easily passed a committee and sailed through the Senate 33-4 on Wednesday. Senator Robin Webb (D-Grayson) said this is an overreaction.

"This is a dangerous path to go down. When you look at the number of constitutional amendments we have proposed, it troubles me deeply," said Webb.

If made law and approved by voters, it could limit when current Governor Andy Beshear could issue pardons.

"But I don't think the bad actions of one governor should reflect on another. I'm going to conduct myself very differently when it comes to pardons," said Gov. Beshear.

The bill now goes to the House. If made law, the question to amend the constitution to limit the governor's pardoning power could be on the ballot in November 2020.