Republican Lawmaker Pushes for Constitutional Change to Limit Gubernatorial Pardon Powers 

Senator McDaniel's push for constitutional reform reflects a response to the contentious pardons by the previous governor, aiming to safeguard justice system integrity.
Senator McDaniel's push for constitutional reform reflects a response to the contentious pardons by the previous governor, aiming to safeguard justice system integrity. Credit | Getty images

United States: A Republican lawmaker resolved on Wednesday to stick to his attempt to inhibit a power of pardon exercised by the last governor of Kentucky, a fallout from the numerous pardons granted by the state’s last GOP governor is still sparking protests, as reported by Associated Press. 

The day after a fast debate, the constitutive change proposition was approved by the Senate State and Local Government Committee to continue into the full Senate. Being successful at the election, it would be reintroduced in the House. Not only are both houses Republican controlled, but Republican supermajorities. 

Senate Committee Advances Proposal for Constitutional Reform 

State Senator Chris McDaniel has proposed a reform bill that, in effect, will make sure that what went down during the sunset time frame for the term of former Gov. Matt Bevin never happens again. Bevin, who was defeated at the polls in the last quarter of 2019, enacted a plethora of preemptory pardons to individuals who come in contact with the criminal justice system, while some raised eyebrows from victims or their families, prosecutors, and legislators alike. 

McDaniel’s bill—Senate Bill 126—intends to correct the state’s constitution and remove the powers of pardoning during the month before the gubernatorial election and the time between the inauguration and the election. If the proposal clears the legislature, it will go notice on the November statewide ballot for voters to decide the one issue, as reported by Associated Press. 

“This, in essence, is a two-month period out of every four years when a governor could not issue pardons,” McDaniel said during his presentation to the committee on Wednesday. 

Bevin’s last weeks in office saw him pardoning and commuting sentences of more than 600 offenders. The Courier-Journal in Louisville won a Pulitzer Prize due to its coverage of Bevin’s actions. 

Bevin extends a pardon to Patrick Baker, and his family is politically connected to the Republican governor. They recently had a fundraiser supporting Bevin. Baker was granted a pardon for a 2014 drug robbery murder but later fell under trial for the same slaying in federal court. He got a 42-year prison term. A federal appellate court turned down the appeal. 

McDaniel Spotlights Cases in Support of Constitutional Amendment 

On Wednesday, McDaniel chose to dwell on the matter of Gregory Wilson, who was found guilty in 1988 of violating and murdering a woman. Wilson was given the death sentence, but Bevin gave him a life sentence with the possibility of release after thirty years. The state parole board just voted Wilson has to serve the remaining years of his life sentence. 

“He should have never been eligible for parole in the first place, as he was given a sentence of death,” McDaniel said. His proposal seeks to put the same limits on gubernatorial commutations. 

Since 2020, McDaniel has advocated for the same constitutional amendment but hasn’t been able to pass the legislation as a whole. During his most recent presentation on Wednesday, McDaniel claimed that his plan would address a “deficiency” in the state constitution, as reported by Associated Press. 

“I think that it is imperative to the foundational issues of justice in the commonwealth that one individual is not able to short-circuit the entirety of a justice system, McDaniel said.