Lawmakers voice opinions over out-of-state lobbying


FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - A Kentucky lawmaker has expressed his displeasure at out-of-state money being used to lobby for legislation in Kentucky.

Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, took to the Senate floor on Wednesday to complain about the money spent on Marsy’s Law, a measure named after Marsy Nicholas, a California college student who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in the 1980s.

Her brother, Henry Nicholas, the co-founder and former co-chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer of Broadcom Corporation, has spent money in numerous states to approve the crime victims’ rights legislation, including in Kentucky.

In 2018, a proposed constitutional amendment sponsored by Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, won near unanimous approval by the House and Senate and 63 percent of Kentucky voters.

However, in 2019 the Kentucky Supreme Court struck it down, affirming a Franklin Circuit Court ruling that the ballot language failed to inform the voters adequately of the substance of the amendment, making it in violation of Kentucky’s statutory and constitutional requirements.    

During his floor comments Wednesday, Schickel, the lone “no” vote in 2018, said out-of-state supporters of Marsy’s Law spent $5 million lobbying for passage of the amendment. 

“People who do not live here, do not work here, try to influence us through lobbying,” he said.

Schickel told his fellow members, “As we debate this in committee, and as we debate this on the Senate floor, to really try to look into the issue of is this really best for our criminal justice system?”

“We have never, ever had this kind of outside influence for a constitutional amendment in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”

Westerfield, who sponsored Marsy’s Law in 2018 and again this year as Senate Bill 15, responded to Schickel’s comments, saying, “It’s funny that he believes this is an unprecedented thing.  How many bills has he sponsored, co-sponsored, voted for and supported that were funded by lobbying efforts from people outside this state?”

Westerfield pointed out lobbying for sports betting, which has been proposed again this year.  “All the major league sports organizations lobbied for it last year.  I’m looking forward to the Senator from Boone’s ‘no’ vote, because of the outside money from outside Kentucky spent to lobby us to support it.”

“While I appreciate and respect his comments, I think they are wrong, misplaced and awfully hypocritical.”

When asked about the dispute after the chamber adjourned, Senate President Robert Stivers said, “This was kind of an interesting discussion taking place on the Senate floor.  It’s kind of like me watching my two sisters fight, you don’t want to get in between them, so I just stayed out of that one.”

Stivers commentedon the bill itself, saying, “It’s an interesting piece of legislation about the notifications and balancing the court process.  I think most of the people in this body are probably supportive of it. There are individuals who think it is something that is not needed, or that it will somehow affect the process to the detriment of the victims.”

The bill has been assigned to the Senate State and Local Government Committee, but no hearing has been scheduled yet.



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