FRANKFORT – With an overall goal of making the public safer, state Rep. Gerald Watkins has pre-filed three bills for the 2017 legislative session that would crack down on criminals committing some of the most serious crimes and strengthen consumer-safety protections.
The first of his bills would require anyone convicted of attempting to murder a peace officer or firefighter to serve at least 85 percent of his or her sentence before being eligible for probation or parole. “I am amazed that someone trying to kill one of these first responders is eligible for probation or parole after serving only 20 percent of their time,” said Rep. Watkins of Paducah. “That’s wrong, and my bill will make sure those convicted stay behind bars much longer. Our police officers and firefighters deserve nothing less.”
During the 2016 Regular Session, this legislation cleared the House unanimously.
In a related criminal-justice matter, Rep. Watkins’ second bill would require a sentence of life without the possibility of parole for those having three or more independent convictions of a Class A or B felony, the two most serious of the four felony levels.
“Those sentenced under this legislation would have used up every chance society has given them to turn their lives around,” he said. “As such, we need to make sure these repeat violent offenders are not able to harm anyone else for the rest of their lives.”
Rep. Watkins’ final bill is a consumer-protection initiative that would stop the selling and/or marketing of wireless phone numbers without the individual subscriber’s written consent.
“This would potentially benefit every Kentuckian with a cell phone, but we’re especially going after the unscrupulous telemarketers who target the elderly and other vulnerable citizens,” he said. “This is not a political issue, but it means a lot to me that a similar bill I had earlier this year drew unanimous support from both sides of the aisle in the House. I’m hoping we can get this through the House and Senate in 2017.”
Rep. Watkins noted that, despite being on the national Do Not Call registry for years, his own cell number was sold to others without his consent, resulting in numerous unwanted calls the telemarketers refused to stop. He reached out to the Attorney General’s office, which discovered the numbers were effectively untraceable to those who had used them.
His bill would establish penalties for those that sell mobile numbers without the subscriber’s written permission. Fines could range between $1,000 and $10,000 for each violation. The bill would not penalize carriers if the numbers are stolen, nor would it stop carriers from providing numbers to affiliates, directory providers or others for the purpose of improving service to their wireless customers.
Rep. Watkins said that he’s worked with AT&T, the Kentucky Telecom Association and the Kentucky Attorney General’s office to make sure the bill does not hinder normal commerce.