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Lawmakers May Consider Limiting Governor's Power To Pardon

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A constitutional amendment limiting the governor's power to issue pardons might be considered in the upcoming legislative session, House Speaker Jody Richards said.

"I think a governor should have the power to pardon, but only be able to pardon persons who have first been convicted," Richards, a Democrat, told The Courier-Journal of Louisville on Tuesday.

Richards said Gov. Ernie Fletcher, a Republican, abused his power when he issued blanket pardons in August 2005 for anyone except himself who could be charged in an investigation of state hiring practices. Although a grand jury issued 29 indictments in the probe - including one against Fletcher - no one was convicted. The charges against Fletcher were dropped in a deal with prosecutors.

The investigation centered around allegations that Fletcher's administration broke state law by basing personnel decisions on political considerations. The grand jury released a report last month said Fletcher approved a "widespread and coordinated plan" that ignored hiring laws and put his supporters into protected jobs.

Fletcher, who has maintained the investigation was politically motivated, said those who want to re-examine gubernatorial pardon power "have to realize that these things are in place for reasons that may occur such as prosecutorial abuse."

Lt. Gov. Steve Pence said last week that he thinks the governor's ability to issue pardons should be limited in the future.

Richards said he must discuss the matter with legislators before deciding whether to push for an amendment in the 2007 legislative session.

Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said he doesn't see public outcry for an amendment. Thayer, chairman of the Senate committee that handles constitutional amendments, said he must study how other states handle the issue before deciding how he would vote.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved


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