A Kentucky lawmaker's proposal to give jurors information about prison costs during the sentencing phases of criminal trials could trigger debate in a legislative session set to begin on Tuesday.
Democratic state Rep. Brent Yonts, a lawyer from Greenville,
said Monday he intends to push hard for legislation that he
believes could significantly reduce prison expenses by simply
letting jurors know the cost for locking up a single prisoner.
"They might not put them in jail for so long for a lesser crime
if they know what it's going to cost," Yonts said.
Records from the Kentucky Department for Corrections show the
cost of incarcerating a single state prisoner ranges from $13,000
to $31,000 a year. The total cost of operating the state prison
system now stands at $477 million a year.
Yonts' proposal will be among more than 400 bills expected to be
officially filed on the opening day of the legislative session set
to begin at noon.
Looking for ways to reduce the $477 million in annual prison
costs, Kentucky is paying the Washington, D.C.-based Pew Center on
the States to do an analysis and recommend solutions. Those
recommendations are expected to be released on Jan. 19.
Kentucky has one of the country's fastest-growing prison
populations, up by some 45 percent in the past decade.
Gov. Steve Beshear has said he'll be pushing a limited agenda
that will include balancing the Medicaid budget and passing
legislation that would raise the high school dropout age from 16 to
18, a pet project of first lady Jane Beshear.
House Democrats will press for a so-called "right-to-hunt"
constitutional amendment to head off a perceived push by animal
rights groups to stop people from going afield with guns. Hunters
already have such constitutional protections in a number of states,
including Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana,
Oklahoma, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Democrats also are proposing
legislation aimed at fighting the state's methamphetamine problem
by requiring certain over-the-counter drugs with pseudoephedrine to
be sold only to people with prescriptions.
Senate Republicans are pushing a dozen bills that they consider
top priorities, including one that would require spending bills to
be posted at least 48 hours before lawmakers vote on them.
Legislators have long complained that they often must vote without
having enough time to review the proposals.
Senate President David Williams said GOP lawmakers also want to reform the state tax code to make Kentucky more inviting to
business expansion. He wants to create a commission made up of
economists, accountants and business leaders to develop a "revenue
neutral" tax proposal. And he wants lawmakers to approve or reject
the eventual proposal without considering amendments.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)