A House committee on Wednesday unanimously approved a resolution calling for a task force that would recommend reforms for Kentucky's juvenile code.
Under HCR 129, the Unified Juvenile Code Task Force would study a broad range of topics, including the feasibility of establishing an age of criminal responsibility to limit the number of children ages 10 and under who face complaints in court each year. Some children have been as young as five.
The House Judiciary Committee voted 12-0 to approve the resolution.
The task force would study whether to eliminate or modify the handling of status offenses involving runaways, truants and young people considered out of the control of adults. State officials and advocates have expressed concern that too many status offenders end up in juvenile detention facilities and too many children under 10 are taken into court to face criminal and status offenses.
The task force would look at alternatives to incarceration, study establishing a means of protection and treatment for special needs children and study an improved system of identifying and helping children exposed to domestic violence.
The resolution is being sponsored by State Rep. John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and one of the lawmakers who led the 2011 efforts to overhaul Kentucky's criminal code. It now goes to the full House.
State Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington, introduced House Bill 61, which, among other measures, would no longer let status offenders be held in secure juvenile detention before their cases are heard in court. That bill has not yet been called for a vote.
On Wednesday, Flood said she could support the task force "because Tilley has a proven record of bipartisan broad-based reform of our penal code."
"Now he wants to bring that same commitment to the juvenile code, and it needs it," Flood said.
The Unified Juvenile Task Force would include a district or family court judge, the director of the administrative office of the courts, a county attorney, a public defender, a school superintendent, and commissioners or directors of key state agencies who work with juvenile offenders.
The task force would submit a report to the Legislative Research Commission on Nov. 1 that would include proposed legislation for 2013.