A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Governor signs bills into law, including Lofton’s law, Lily’s law, juvenile justice and child abuse bills

Staff report

As lawmakers make ready to return to Frankfort on Wednesday and Thursday, for the final two days of the 2023 General Assembly, Governor Beshear signed into law Monday several bills already passed. Likely, more will be signed today — and perhaps more vetoed.

The governor has vetoed a number of bills, and the legislative body will have an opportunity to override those vetoes by the end of the day Thursday. The also have an opportunity to pass more legislation, but any additional legislation will be subject to the Governor’s veto and cannot be overriden.

The bills Gov. Beshear signed into law on Monday:

Strengthening penalties for hazing and DUI

Following the tragic deaths of two teenagers in separate incidents, Gov. Andy Beshear on Monday signed into law two bills which honor their memory by strengthening penalties for hazing and DUI in Kentucky.

Senate Bill 9, also known as Lofton’s Law, was passed by lawmakers in response to the October 2021 hazing death of University of Kentucky freshman Thomas Lofton Hazelwood, who was an 18-year-old from Henderson.

“Tragically, his life was cut short by hazing, causing his parents, loved ones. And so many others to experience the heartbreak and pain of his passing,” Beshear stated. “They worked closely with Sen. Robby Mills to introduce this bill, and today we’re going to sign it into law.”

The legislation increases the penalty for hazing that results in physical harm or death to a Class D felony, punishable by one to five years in prison. Hazing that does not cause physical harm will be increased to a Class A misdemeanor, with up to a year in jail for those found guilty.

Tracey Hazelwood, who attended the signing with husband Kirk and their children Logan and Preston while daughter Sydney watched from out of state, described what is was like to learn of her son’s death.

“It’s a phone call nobody ever wants to get. And we hope this never happens to anybody else again. This is not going to bring my baby back, but this is going to save other lives.”

House Bill 262
, or “Lily’s Law,” is named for Lily Fairfield, a 16-year-old from Oldham County who died in 2021 after a driver under the influence crashed into the car her sister, Zoe, was driving on their way to school. That driver had been arrested and immediately released just three days prior, on a DUI charge.

Beshear said, “A person who is guilty of vehicular homicide, causing the death of another person while operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol, controlled substance, or any other impairing substance, makes it a Class B felony,” which carries a ten-to-20-year prison term.

The bill mandates that a person is guilty of vehicular homicide when they cause the death of another resulting from their operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance or other impairing substance. The bill makes vehicular homicide a Class B felony.

The bill also requires that individuals who are arrested for drunken driving shall be detained for at least six hours following their arrest. Current statute requires that an individual who is arrested and who has a breath analysis test result of 0.15% or more alcohol concentration shall be detained for four hours following arrest.

The bill amends state law to clarify that a breath test must be performed in accordance with the standard operating procedures adopted by the Department of Criminal Justice Training. Previously, the statute read that the manufacturer’s instructors or instructions adopted by the Department of Criminal Justice Training and approved by the manufacturer were acceptable.

House Speaker David Osborne also praised the bill’s signing: “Lily’s death was a senseless tragedy that no family should have to endure. HB 262 is the direct result of her family’s efforts to honor her life by preventing the same thing from happening to others. It will ensure those arrested for driving under the influence are detained and toughen the penalties for vehicular homicide.”

Zoe Fairfield said, “The day my sister passed away, I lost my best friend, a person who was a part of me. Being here today, I feel like I can really honor her and it makes me feel better about losing her.”

Improving the juvenile justice system

Beshear also signed two pieces of legislation as part of a solid, aggressive plan to implement sweeping improvements in Kentucky’s juvenile justice system.

For several months, the Governor and Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary Kerry Harvey have said robust and effective changes to the juvenile justice system require policy, budgetary and legislative action. The administration presented its juvenile justice legislative request to the General Assembly on Feb. 14, and the legislators have adopted the request.

The bills signed today reflect the requested changes and budgetary items he had identified.

“We told the General Assembly what was needed to better protect our juveniles and staff, and while these two bills don’t include everything needed, they do contain critical funding for staff, equipment and the work needed to renovate the downtown Louisville facility,” said Gov. Beshear. “Thank you to Sen. Danny Carroll for listening to our proposals and working with us to include about 70% of our needs. This is a good step forward and I appreciate the General Assembly for taking these steps.”

“We hope no juvenile in Kentucky finds their way to a Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) facility, but if they do, we are committed to providing the programming they need to successfully return to their community,” said Commissioner Vicki Reed. “We appreciate Gov. Beshear and the General Assembly for their bipartisan support of our staff, facilities and juveniles.”

Senate Bill 162

Gov. Beshear signed Senate Bill 162, which appropriates more than $25 million to DJJ for staff salaries, facility security upgrades, transportation costs and enhanced programming. The bill also recognizes the need to better serve those youth with severe mental health issues and divert them to more appropriate care.
By signing this bill, the Governor is also providing correctional officers at the Department of Corrections with $30 million in funding to increase new and current correctional officer salaries to a minimum of $50,000 annually.

House Bill 3

Gov. Beshear signed House Bill 3, providing almost $20 million to assess and redesign the Jefferson County Youth Detention Center in downtown Louisville, which has not been in operation since 2019 when Louisville Metro Government requested DJJ take over the responsibility of detaining charged and committed juveniles. Since that time, juveniles from Jefferson County and surrounding counties have been housed at the Jefferson Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Lyndon. By having a high-security facility in downtown Louisville, DJJ will be able to better assist Louisville Metro Police Department and the judicial system by being more centrally located.

Protecting children from abuse

In the wake of groups planting thousands of “pinwheels for prevention” in the garden on the front lawn of the Capitol to educate communities and raise awareness of child abuse and neglect, the Governor signed three bills to help protect children from abuse.

April as Child Abuse Prevention Month. The Governor also signed into law three bills to help protect children from abuse.

“As a dad to two young kids, I believe there’s nothing more important than protecting our children,” Gov. Beshear said. “Unfortunately, far too many kids in our commonwealth suffer from abuse and neglect – but we all can be a part of the solution, helping support education and prevention.

Senate Bill 229
Sponsored by Sen. Julie Raque Adams of Louisville, the bill strengthens reporting requirements when Kentuckians have reason to believe a child has been abused, neglected or is a victim of human trafficking.

House Bill 78
Sponsored by Rep. Kim Banta of Ft. Mitchell, the bill clarifies the legal definition of incest to make sure more people are protected from this hideous crime.

“HB 78 provides law enforcement and criminal justice system the tools it needs to protect our most vulnerable from sexual abuse. No one wants to think of such a brutal act, but it does indeed happen and the perpetrators must be held accountable in order to allow victims to heal,” Rep. Banta said. “This measure passed both the House and Senate without a single dissenting vote. I appreciate the Governor bringing attention to it and hope that victims of incest see this as overwhelming support for them.”

Senate Bill 80
Sponsored by Sen. Danny Carroll of Benton, this bill ensures that registered sex offenders can’t come within 1,000 feet of a high school, middle school, elementary school, preschool, publicly owned or leased playground, or licensed day care facility.

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