FRANKFORT—Legislation that would impose harsher penalties for those convicted of criminal abuse to young children received approval Monday from the full Senate.
Senate Majority Caucus Chair Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, said House Bill 263 is a straight forward measure that raises the penalty of first-degree criminal abuse from a Class C felony to a Class B felony if the victim is under 12 years of age.
She said the Senate has spent a tremendous amount of time this legislative session focusing on child abuse and changing the trajectory of Kentucky.
“House Bill 263 perfectly segues Senate intentions to protect the children of Kentucky. In some cases under current law, the defendant is released while the victim still has a lifetime of suffering,” Adams said.
The bill’s primary sponsors are Speaker of the House David W. Osborne, R-Prospect, and Rep. C. Ed Massey, R-Hebron. Adams presented the bill on the Senate floor.
HB 263 is named “Kami’s law,” and during a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting last week, seventh grader Kiera Dunk spoke on behalf of the bill’s namesake.
“Kami was a beautiful 9-month-old baby when her life was changed forever because the man responsible for her safety shook her so violently that she was clinically dead for 23 minutes,” she said. “Kami survived, but due to trauma, only half of her brain remains. Since that day she has been confined to a wheelchair, nonverbal, requires a feeding tube, daily seizures and has to take 12 pills a day and may never be able to use the bathroom on her own.”
Kiera said the person responsible for injuring her did not serve enough time in jail.
“Last year, Kami had to have her fake skull replaced, got sick and almost died again, while the person responsible roams free with no legal or financial ramification,” she said.
Sen. Robin L. Webb, D-Grayson, voted against the measure during the floor vote Monday. She said legislators have continued to take a piecemeal approach to the penal code.
“In my opinion, we need comprehensive overhaul, and we need to look at the statutes that dovetail with each other and as well as the sentencing, which we’re all over the board on from year to year and issue to issue whether or not we’re going to lessen them or strengthen them,” she said.
The bill received approval from the Senate with a 31-4 vote. It now heads to the governor’s desk.