Kentucky Legislative Committee Passes Bill To Study Racial Disparities

Feb 10, 2021

Credit J. Tyler Franklin

A state Senate committee has passed a bill that would create a commission to study racial disparities in Kentucky.

The effort comes in response to the police killing of Breonna Taylor and months of racial justice protests in Louisville, though lawmakers still haven’t considered proposals like a ban on no-knock warrants or civilian review boards supported by many in the movement.

Sen. David Givens, a Republican from Greensburg, says the legislature needs to study racial disparities more before passing new policies.

“We don’t have a data collection point that takes that and turns it into information. The data’s there,” Givens said. “This commission would turn it into information to help us guide policy.”

The Senate State and Local Government Committee voted unanimously to advance Senate Bill 10 on Wednesday. It can now be considered by the full Senate.

The 13-member commission created by the bill would study “where disparities may exist” on issues like education, health, economic opportunity and criminal justice. It would also try to “identify areas of improvement in providing services and opportunities for minority communities.”

The panel would include the executive director of the Kentucky Human Rights Commission, four state senators, four House members and four citizen experts appointed by the legislature

OJ Oleka, co-founder of AntiRacism Kentucky and a former aide to Republican Treasurer Allison Ball, says the commission would be an opportunity for conservatives to be involved in combating structural racism.

“Oftentimes when these issues are discussed, they don’t always have the conservative perspective. They often come from the center-left. What that does as a result is it atrophies the totality of the conversation, allowing people from all across the political spectrum to come together,” Oleka said

The bill comes after Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron formed a task force of mostly government officials, prosecutors and police to study search warrant policies in the wake of the Breonna Taylor raid.

Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey, a Democrat from Louisville, voiced support for the measure, saying it was the first step in a process of addressing racial disparities.

“We need to take action to confront the founding irony upon which our country was founded: that all people are created equal, but then not to make it so,” McGarvey said.

“We need to look at how those disparities have manifested, and we need to look at how we can make it better.”