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Day of action focuses on CT undocumented's healthcare needs; 7 jurors seated in first Trump criminal trial; ND looks to ease 'upskill' obstacles for former college students; Black Maternal Health Week ends, health disparities persist.

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Seven jury members were seated in Trump's hush money case. House Speaker Johnson could lose his job over Ukraine aid. And the SCOTUS heard oral arguments in a case that could undo charges for January 6th rioters.

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Fears grow that low-income folks living in USDA housing could be forced out, North Carolina's small and Black-owned farms are helped by new wind and solar revenues, and small towns are eligible for grants to boost civic participation..

KY lawmakers consider bill that would expand felony offenses

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Tuesday, February 13, 2024   

Under proposed legislation being considered by Republican lawmakers, Kentucky renters would face harsher criminal penalties for property damage. Penalties would increase for sleeping in a tent in public areas, and for violent offenses, among other measures.

Ben Carter, senior litigation and advocacy counsel with the Kentucky Equal Justice Center, explained state lawmakers already passed a law a few years ago that made damaging rental property in excess of $1,000 punishable as a felony. He said House Bill 5 would lower that threshold.

"House Bill 5 reduces the amount of damage you would need to do to a rental property to $500 before a renter - 30% of all Kentuckians rent their homes - faces potential felony charges for destruction of, or damage to, rental properties," Carter added.

The state is already struggling with affordable housing. Even before the pandemic and supply-chain shortages stalled new construction, the Commonwealth was short around 90,000 affordable units. According to the Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky, around 4,000 Kentuckians experience homelessness on any given night in January each year.

Supporters of the bill say the legislation is needed to protect citizens and increase public safety.

The bill would also create a "three strikes" provision, which requires any person convicted of a violent felony for a third time to be sentenced to either life without the possibility of parole -- or death, if the third offense is death-sentence eligible. Carter predicts the state's incarcerated population would balloon under the bill, along with costs paid by taxpayers.

"When we decide to increase the number of crimes for which you have to serve at least 85% of your sentence, and we increase the duration of those sentences, all of those decisions take dollars out of other approaches that we know will get at the root causes of some of these public-safety problems," Carter continued.

According to the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, as of last December, 1% of
people serving felony sentences in Kentucky were sentenced to life without parole.


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