Ky. Senate passes bill to limit governor's pardoning power

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - Kentucky voters are a step closer to being able to amend the state constitution to limit the governor's pardon power.

Exterior of the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort, Ky

Wednesday, the measure took another step toward becoming law in passing the Senate.

It's common for outgoing governors to pardon a lot of people.

"The article starts out by saying in 2007, during his last hours in office, Gov. Ernie Fletcher made state history by issuing 101 sentence commutations or pardons," said Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill.

Former Governor Steve Beshear also issued pardons, but after Matt Bevin pardoned hundreds including murderers, rapists and drug offenders, many said action needed to be taken.

"We vest in one person who stands accountable to no one, the authority to free everyone on death row," McDaniel said.

McDaniels' bill would put to voters only allowing pardons leading up to the gubernatorial election.

"During the 30 days prior to an election and in between a gubernatorial election and the swearing-in," McDaniel said.

Senator Morgan McGarvey has been quite critical of former Governor Bevin's actions to pardon, even calling for a widespread investigation.

McGarvey voted for the bill, but did ask for an amendment dealing with death penalties and how the window of time being limited could adversely affect someone about to be executed. However, that amendment was defeated.

The constitutional amendment easily passed a committee and on Wednesday sailed through the Senate 33-4.

Senator Robin Webb called the action an over reaction.

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

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

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

The bill now goes to the House where senators say they expect more amendments

If it passes the House, the question asking if you want to limit the governor's pardoning power could be on November's ballot.