Opinion: State Sen. Max Wise on Constitutional Amendments

By State Senator Max Wise, (R-Campbellsville)
16th District: Adair, Clinton, Cumberland, McCreary, Russell, Taylor, and Wayne Counties

The deadline to request a ballot for expanded absentee voting has passed, and in-person early voting is now underway. Most people have few questions about who is on their ballot, but several people have contacted me with questions regarding what the two ballot measures on this year’s ballots are. If approved by Kentucky voters with a simple majority, the ballot measures would be added to our state constitution.

In Kentucky, if 60 percent of lawmakers from the state House and Senate pass a proposed amendment, it is placed on the ballot of the next general election in which members of the state legislature are up for election. If a simple majority approves the proposed amendment of those voting, it is ratified into the state constitution.

Look on the back of your ballot. You will find the two amendments that the Kentucky legislature has approved and submitted to the Commonwealth’s voters for their ratification or rejection. The amendments are printed in full. Your options are to either vote yes to ratify the amendment or no to reject it.

Constitutional Amendment 1, also known as “Marsy’s Law,” was Regular Session 2020’s (RS 2020) Senate Bill 15. The bill was championed by my friend and colleague State Senator Whitney Westerfield. Constitutional Amendment 2 was RS 2020’s House Bill 405. Representative Jason Nemes was the primary sponsor of that bill. I encourage you to read these amendments’ full language before casting your vote and submitting your ballot. The language of the amendments is detailed and lengthy. With that in mind, I want to provide you a summary of these ballot measures to help you better understand them. I also want to share with you why I am supportive of both.

Constitutional Amendment 1 asks voters if they favor creating a new section of the Constitution of Kentucky relating to crime victims. This “Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights” aims to ensure that crime victims are notified, present, and heard at a proceeding; have the safety of themselves and their family considered in bail or release decisions; be notified of release or escape of the accused; and receive restitution from the person who committed the criminal offense.

I proudly voted in favor of Marsy’s Law. Kentucky is one of only 15 states that does not currently provide constitutional rights for crime victims. The accused are afforded numerous rights while victims are left with few statutory rights at all. For those that do exist for crime victims, there is little ability to enforce them. Victims deserve dignity and respect within the judicial system. Marsy’s Law would help ensure that they are not silenced or forgotten.

There are several examples of misinformation related to Constitutional Amendment 1. First, Marsy’s Law does not, in any way, infringe on your 2nd Amendment rights and is not a part of a “red flag” effort. You may have heard one example of such misinformation related to Marsy’s Law. Despite the hyperbole in opposition to this amendment, it does not impact your right to defend your home against intruders. Furthermore, Marsy’s Law does not change the presumption of innocence. In fact, it strengthens and reaffirms that protection. With the overdue ratification of Marsy’s Law into the Constitution of Kentucky, there will be no change to our federal or state due process standards. The rights of the accused are protected in America, and rightfully so. This constitutional right cannot be taken away.

I invite you to visit victimsrightsky.com to find accurate information on Constitutional Amendment 1. After your own review, I encourage you to join me in support of Kentucky crime victims by making Kentucky the latest state to include a Crime Victims Bill of Rights in our state constitution.

Constitutional Amendment 2 asks if voters are in favor of changing the terms of Commonwealth’s attorneys from six-year terms to eight-year terms, beginning in 2030; changing the terms of judges of the district court from four-year terms to eight year terms beginning in 2022; and requiring district judges to be licensed attorneys for at least eight years beginning in 2022.

I voted in favor of submitting it to Kentucky voters for ratification or rejection. Our state is long overdue in the redistricting of judicial districts. With the lack of uniformity in terms of Commonwealth’s attorneys and district judges, it has proven difficult for the Supreme Court of Kentucky and the General Assembly to ensure each region’s needs are met. By marrying the two terms and making their elections coincide, both positions will be filled at the same time. Furthermore, the eight years as a licensed attorney requirement will provide that candidates for the job are adequately prepared to take on the many and growing demands placed on holders of this position. I encourage you to read the amendment closely before making your decision to vote yes or no.

No matter what your vote on these measures or who you plan on voting for in the 2020 General Election, be informed and make your voice heard. There are very few excuses for not voting this year. Early voting locations are now accessible in your county, and you can find details on these locations and in-person Election Day locations at sos.ky.gov. Our Republic is dependent on an informed and engaged citizenry. Please vote on or before November 3.

Note: Senator Max Wise (R-Campbellsville) represents the 16th District which encompasses Adair, Clinton, Cumberland, McCreary, Russell, Taylor, and Wayne Counties. He is the chairman of the Education Committee; as well as co-chairman of the Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee. Senator Wise is also a member of the Senate Economic Development, Tourism, and Labor Committee; the Health and Welfare Committee; the Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection Committee; the Public Assistance Reform Task Force; the Budget Review Subcommittee on Economic Development and Tourism, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, and the Budget Review Subcommittee on Transportation.

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Zac Oakes is the News and Sports Director for LakerCountry.com and Laker Country WJRS 104.9 FM.