Three Kentucky bills signed into law impact racial equity, equality

Published: Apr. 9, 2021 at 7:56 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Three bills were signed into law Friday at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage. Community members and legislators who helped formulate the laws said they confront head-on historical injustices in education, economics, and criminal justice with minority Kentuckians.

Across the building, people cheered and shed tears as the three bills were signed.

Beshear used his signature to rewrite the blueprint for a “better Kentucky.”

“Kentucky can only be its best when everyone is truly valued,” Beshear said. “Kentucky can only be just when everyone is seen, everyone is heard, and no one is left behind.”

Senate Bill 270 confronts secondary education. It gives students at Kentucky’s only private HBCU, Simmons College, access to Kentucky grants and expanded operations with Kentucky State University, a public HBCU.

Simmons President Kevin Cosby said he had been fighting for more than just equal rights for the university.

“There are three people — three groups of people,” Cosby said, “three categories of people. Those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who ask what’s happening.”

House Bill 321 was also signed into law. It provides $30 million of initial investments in west Louisville, along with tax credits, so that economic opportunities can be afforded without displacing residents.

State Representative Pamela Stevenson represents District 43 and shared her view of the example Kentucky is setting for racial equality.

“When they trace back how does the world work for all people,” Stevenson said, “they’ll trace it back to the state of Kentucky.”

With Senate Bill 4 becoming law, the room was filled with a wave of tears and deep breaths. Tamika Palmer, Breonna Taylor’s mother, was emotional as Beshear’s pen hit the paper, stood at his side with her lawyer Lonita Baker.

Taylor, a 26-year-old former EMT, was shot several times in her home last year during a drug raid by LMPD officers. In response to her death, there were several months of protests along the city streets, resulting in local reforms, including a total ban on no-knock warrants in Louisville.

Supporters of Senate Bill 4 hope that no further lives will be lost as a result of the measure, which limits the use of no-knock warrants across the state.

“Senate Bill 4 was not named after Breonna Taylor,” Baker said. “The family would not have been opposed to it being named after Breonna Taylor after it was obvious Breonna’s Law was not going to be passed.”

Baker said they are still working with the general assembly for change. They said they have comfort in knowing it passed in honor of Breonna Taylor because it wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for her death.

In emotional closing remarks, several lawmakers and speakers referred to the long struggle to reach the current point and emphasized the fact that much more work remains to be done.

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