HB 687 draws strong opposition from City Commission

Published 4:30 pm Monday, March 25, 2024

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Last week, the Winchester City Commission voted to adopt a resolution opposing House Bill 687, sponsored by State Rep. Ryan Dotson.

The bill, which was introduced in committee on Feb. 23, would require city and county legislative bodies – city commissions and fiscal courts – to enter into an agreement by July 1 of every year in which the city would “share in the cost of housing prisoners who are arrested within the boundaries of the city and are charged with any misdemeanor or felony and are lodged in jail.”

The bill goes on to specify that “The city shall only be responsible for paying for the costs related to felonies from the time of arrest and confinement within the jail to the date per diem payments commence prescribed in KRS 431.215.”

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If a city and county fail to reach an agreement by that date, under the proposed legislation, the city would be responsible for paying 40 percent of the incarceration costs of any person arrested and convicted of a crime within the city limits for that fiscal year ending on June 30.

In response to the legislation, Winchester Mayor JoEllen Reed along with City Commissioners Kenny Book, Shannon Cox, Kitty Strode and Hannah Toole passed the resolution that read in part:

“In the 2024 Kentucky General Assembly, Representative Dotson proposed House Bill 687…’ An act relating to municipal payments to counties for jails and declaring an emergency.'” 

It goes on to state. 

“Arrests made inside the City limits of Winchester are not arrests for breaking City ordinances, but State laws; and…Costs of incarcerations on the city would [because of HB 687] be 40% for those arrested inside the city limits by law enforcement and should not be subsidized by the taxpayers inside the city limits…Creating a statute to force an interlocal agreement between the city of Winchester and Clark County for jail fees would render the City of Winchester unable to provide the most and best services to those citizens living in and traveling through the city limits. Now therefore, be it resolved by the Board of Commissioners of the city of Winchester, Kentucky that House Bill 687 would be detrimental to the City in providing the services expected by all citizens in the city limits and the board of commissioners are opposed to such a measure.” 

Speaking to those in attendance, Mayor Reed elaborated that HB 687 would be problematic. 

“If you live in the county, you live in the county and you pay county taxes. If you live in the city, you live in the county as well and you pay city and county taxes,” she said. “This proposed bill is actually soft on crime…We can not expect as a commission who’s elected to represent the citizens that live inside the Clark County line or the Winchester boundaries…for [our] citizens to pay for a service that is statutorily the responsibility of the state and the county.” 

In a letter to Dotson, Reed described the bill as an affront to businesses and residents of Winchester and stated the bill would lead to double taxation on both. 

Magistrate Shannon Cox also spoke on the legislation.

“Luckily, this has not even been heard in committee yet. I’ve seen a lot of unthought-out things that were introduced in the legislature. A deputy sheriff with this bill could arrest a person for DUI on Main Street and the City would be held liable for 40% of the cost of their incarceration,” he said. “The state needs to step up and say that [for] state laws that are violated, we’re going to take responsibility for what the costs of these jails are to local people…not put the burden on us.” 

Regarding public safety, including potential financial harm, Reed further spoke on the negative impact on policing. 

“We will not back down and have our residents double-taxed and actually have arrests made outside the city that’s going to force our police officers to not arrest within the city limits because then we’ve got to pay forty percent for that person,” she said. “Personally, I don’t think the county should have to be responsible for the jail either. I think it’s the responsibility of the state.” 

City Commissioner Toole also spoke, saying that the number could end up being even higher than 40% in certain circumstances, while Strode and Book also spoke against HB 687.