FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The following statement can be attributed to ACLU-KY Smart Justice Field Organizer Amanda Hall:
“The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky applauds Governor Andy Beshear’s decision to veto Senate Bill 11. The bill, if enacted, would have created a new felony for damaging rental property, even though this is already covered under existing law. We feared Senate Bill 11 would do nothing more than allow unscrupulous landlords to exploit and intimidate vulnerable tenants.
Senate Bill 11 was passed in the final days of the session while the public was locked out of the Capitol due to restrictions on public gatherings during the novel coronavirus pandemic. The bill’s passage seemed particularly cruel at this time when so many Kentuckians are facing housing instability and economic uncertainty during this public health emergency. The ACLU remains committed to fighting against any and all legislation that would increase incarceration rates and burden more Kentuckians with the life-long consequences of a felony conviction.”
Adrienne Bush of the Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky noted that “Over 30% of Kentuckians rent their homes, nearly 30% of these renters are extremely low income, and 66% of these folks are paying more than half of their income on rent and utilities. Instead of dealing with this very real housing crisis, SB 11 legislation would have done irreparable harm in stigmatizing this group of people, and allowing for a very specific way for unscrupulous landlords to threaten renters with criminal charges without attendant tenant protections. We applaud Gov. Beshear for vetoing this unnecessary and unequal bill.
Mary Savage, legal counsel for the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which testified against SB 11, stated, “Domestic Violence shelters across the Commonwealth stay full, to the point where we must often turn survivors away because there is no bed for them. Finding and maintaining safe and affordable housing is critical to survivors as they attempt to leave abusive situations and start on a path to healing and independence. We understand both the need and desire to maintain property in good condition as well as the struggles victims of domestic violence may face when trying to find suitable housing when they have poor or no credit history or a criminal record.”
Victimization itself can often result in the victim taking the blame for acts committed by the abusive partner. That was a specific concern with SB 11. Such a law, if passed, could be used to further punish a domestic violence survivor should a landlord choose to go to the police or county attorney to bring criminal charges. Even very minor damage could warrant a charge of criminal mischief in the third degree, that carries a potential for jail time. This type of situation plays right into the hands of abusers who will use such circumstances to punish, harass, and maintain coercive control over their intimate partners. Savage concluded, “We’re very grateful that Governor Beshear has vetoed SB 11 and not added this additional layer of risk for survivors that already struggle to be safe.”
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