Politics & Government

Senate approves costly hike in penalties for heroin trafficking

Sen. John Schickel, R-Union
Sen. John Schickel, R-Union

The Kentucky Senate wants to crack down on dealers of heroin and fentanyl, even if it means spending tens of millions more tax dollars to provide prison beds for them.

The Senate, on a 36-0 vote Tuesday, approved Senate Bill 14, which would increase the penalty for trafficking any amount of heroin or fentanyl from a Class D felony to a Class C felony.

Class D felonies have a penalty of up to five years in prison. Conviction of a Class C felony can result in 10 years in prison.

“Bodies are mounting everyday with the heroin crisis,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. John Schickel, R-Union.

He said his bill “will put heroin traffickers on notice: if you are going to kill our young people, you are going to do the time.”

In a floor speech, Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said it’s time Kentucky ends this crisis.

He acknowledged the legislation is “a fiscal hit to our budget” that will cost “tens of millions of dollars.”

Stivers said Gov. Matt Bevin would have to find money to implement the bill this year and the legislature would continue funding it in the two-year budget that lawmakers create next year.

Senate Minority Leader Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, said anybody who deals in heroin should be severely punished.

Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, voted for the bill but said Kentucky “has tried to incarcerate our way out of this problem before.”

Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198, @BGPolitics