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Kentucky House passes bill to limit bail organizations

The vote comes after the Louisville Community Bail Fund paid Quintez Brown's $100,000 bond, the man charged for shooting at mayoral candidate Craig Greenberg.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Kentucky House passed a bill Tuesday that would only allow charitable organizations to post bail for inmates being held on bond amounts up to $5,000. It now heads to the Senate for approval.

The vote comes after Quintez Brown, charged with shooting at Louisville mayoral candidate Craig Greenberg, was released from jail when the Louisville Community Bail Fund paid his $100,000 cash bond. Brown, 21, was fitted with a GPS ankle monitor and taken to his home, where he has stayed under the home incarceration program.

Quintez Brown, a metro council candidate and social justice activist, was arrested and charged with attempted murder and four counts of wanton endangerment shortly after the shooting on February 14. Democratic mayoral candidate Craig Greenberg was not hit but said a bullet grazed his sweater.

Republican Rep. John Blanton, a leading sponsor of the bill, brought up Brown's release in remarks on the House floor Tuesday afternoon. He warned that the organizations had “no guardrails” and were “indiscriminately going and bailing people out.”

“In less than 48 hours an individual who had tried to take the life of a mayoral candidate in public was back out. He still had to wear an ankle bracelet but nevertheless was released from custody,” Blanton said.” Now, we all know how easy it is if one wants to cut his ankle bracelets."

An earlier form of the bill attempted to outlaw the organizations entirely.

In addition to the $5,000 limit, the version passed Tuesday would restrict the organizations from bailing out those charged with domestic violence. They would also have to maintain an annual report that must be filed with Kentucky's Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary by Oct. 31 each year. The report must also be made available to the public.

Some Democratic lawmakers spoke out against the bill. 

Rep. Pamela Stevenson said it would put a burden on poor and low-income Kentuckians and not fix persistent issues with the state's bail system. In Kentucky, it would take a constitutional amendment on the ballot in order to allow judges to detain defendants without bail if they pose a grave danger.

“Don’t fix a broken legal system on the backs of poor people,” Stevenson said. “If we need a constitutional amendment so that we can have bail not be set, then let’s do that.”

The proposal, House Bill 313, sailed through on a 76-19 vote, with the majority of Democrats voting against the bill. Republican lawmakers hold veto-proof supermajorities in both chambers.

Kentucky's state legislature is not alone in moving to limit charitable bail funds. Last week, Indiana's state legislature pushed forward a bill that would require charitable bail organizations to register with the state. 

Under the proposal, the groups would only be allowed to bail out a maximum of two people every 180 days if they did not register. The legislation, which is headed to the governor's desk for a signature, also puts restrictions on who organizations could bailout.

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