FRANKFORT — A constitutional amendment that would restore the voting rights of ex-felons who complete a five-year waiting period without further criminal offenses won unanimous approval in a Senate committee Wednesday despite reservations voiced by Democrats.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul testified before the committee, urging progress on the issue that has repeatedly passed the Democrat-led House in recent years but failed to gain traction in the Republican-led Senate.
The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Rep. Jesse Crenshaw of Lexington, joined Senate Democrats on the committee in expressing disdain for a substitute version of the bill that is expected to pass the full Senate later Wednesday afternoon.
Crenshaw and others said adding a five-year waiting period, which was proposed by state Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, does not improve House Bill 70 “in any form or fashion.”
“I cannot go forward with saying I am in favor of the committee substitute,” Crenshaw said.
Thayer said the waiting period is “reasonable” and the only way to get Republicans to sign onto the measure. He drew the ire of a packed committee room by saying he expected “some level of gratitude” for finding a compromise that could pass.
“I’m trying to break the logjam and keep this moving,” Thayer said.
If the bill passes the Senate Wednesday as expected, then leaders of the House and Senate are expected to appoint a conference committee to hammer out a compromise bill. If the two sides can agree, voters would decide the constitutional amendment’s fate at the ballot box in November.
Crenshaw’s measure passed the House in January 82-12.