FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - Kentucky's House on Thursday approved a bill restoring voting rights for most felons.
The House voted 82-12 after lawmakers gave the bill's sponsor, Rep. Jesse Crenshaw, D-Lexington, a standing ovation. Crenshaw has backed the legislation for years and is retiring after this legislative session.
House Republican Leader Jeff Hoover, who called the measure an issue of fairness, spoke in favor of the bill on the House floor.
It would restore voting rights for most felons, except those convicted of intentional murder, rape, or certain sex crimes.
Bill supporters said it would benefit at least 120,000 Kentucky felons who have done their time in prison. Currently, they must appeal to the governor for voting rights.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, who has said that he plans to testify in favor of the legislation during a future Senate committee hearing, issued a statement Thursday commending House lawmakers.
"The right to vote is a sacred one in our country and it is the very foundation of our republic," Paul said. "I urge the Kentucky Senate to act on this very important issue."
Gov. Steve Beshear on Thursday tweeted "congratulations" to the House for passing the bill.
Similar legislation has passed the House before but has stalled in the Republican-led Senate. Opponents say felons should be made to pay for their crimes.
The bill has not been assigned to a Senate committee, so a hearing date isn't set.