John Tilley

Kentucky LRC

Kentucky is undergoing rapid changes in how it treats drug offenders.

A growing number of communities are offering needle exchange programs for IV drug users. There’s a greater availability of naloxone, a drug which counters the effects of an opioid overdose. The state legislature passed a bill this year offering more treatment options for heroin addicts.

Someone with an up-close view of these recent changes is John Tilley, a former Kentucky House member from Hopkinsville who now serves as Secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet.

Tilley says there’s been a growing recognition from both conservatives and liberals that simply throwing drug addicts in jail doesn’t cure the problem.

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State prisons are at capacity, county jails are overcrowded and the state is recommending transferring about 1,600 inmates to private prisons that have been shuttered for the past several years.

Officials ended the state’s last private prison contract in 2013, partly as a cost savings measure and also in response to scandals at privately owned prisons in the state.

John Tilley, secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, said that it was “critical” that the Kentucky consider reopening the private prisons. He said past efforts to reduce the prison population haven’t panned out.

“Parole grant rates are not where we thought they would be,” Tilley said. “Revocations of those on parole are higher than they were projected. And generally there’s so much discretion built into the court system.”

Tilley said that many judges throughout the state haven’t bought into prison reforms, instead sentencing convicted criminals to incarceration over diversion or treatment programs that would keep people out of prison.

The Kentucky House of Representatives now has its own version of a bill that seeks to combat the state’s heroin epidemic.

There are a few key distinctions between the House proposal revealed Monday and the bill that passed the Kentucky Senate earlier this year, including a provision that would allow local health districts to set up needle exchange programs. Needle exchanges have been a major hang-up for Senate Republicans in the past.

Rep. John Tilley, a Democrat from Hopkinsville, said a needle exchange program can be the first point of contact between addicts and people who can help.

“We are at wit’s end in the state, and for the country for that matter, to find things that will actually work, that will actually reduce drug-use that actually will get addicts into treatment, will break the cycle of addiction,” Tilley said.

A state Senator and Representative from Hopkinsville are among a small group of lawmakers working to craft new legislation aimed at curbing the state’s rising problem with heroin.

Senate Judiciary Chair Whitney Westerfield and House Judiciary Chair John Tilley are helping to create a bill they hope can pass the 2015 General Assembly. A bill introduced in this year’s session failed because of concerns over a part of the measure that would have allowed prosecutors to charge heroin traffickers with homicide if someone they sold to died from an overdose.

Speaking to CN2’s Pure Politics, Senator Westerfield said a bipartisan group from both the House and Senate believes something needs to be done to strengthen the state’s heroin laws. The Christian County Republican says he wants to see a bill that cracks down on dealers while also increasing treatment options for addicts.

A recent report from Kentucky’s Office of Drug Control Policy showed deaths caused by heroin increased by more than 12 percent in 2013.

Kentucky LRC

In Frankfort, the Interim Joint Committee on Licensing and Occupations is giving another look at legislation that would make it easier for those with a prior conviction to receive a professional license. 

Hopkinsville Rep. John Tilley says a license should only be denied if there is a “clear connection” between the crime committed and the license sought.  The proposed legislation also makes it necessary for an applicant to be notified in advance if they will be disqualified because of a past crime. They would then receive a hearing, and would be able to appeal the administrative board’s ruling, if necessary.

Senator John Schickel of Union County, expressed concern about the bill and how it might affect an employer’s “right to know”.

A bill that would extend domestic-violence protection to dating partners is being taken up Wednesday by members of a Kentucky House committee.

House Bill 8 received an endorsement Tuesday night by Governor Steve Beshear, who spoke in favor of the bill during his “State of the Commonwealth” address. Supporters have been trying to get such legislation passed since 2007.

Kentucky House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Tilley of Hopkinsville sponsored a bill last year that died without receiving a floor vote.

Tilly is again sponsoring legislation this session that would allow dating partners to obtain domestic violence protective orders.

Erica Peterson, Kentucky Public Radio

The chairman of the Kentucky House Judiciary Committee says he is pre-filing legislation that seeks to make clear that Kentuckians are free from the unregulated use of eminent domain.

Hopkinsville Democrat John Tilley says the issue should be clarified in light of the proposed Bluegrass Pipeline. The proposed natural gas liquids pipeline would stretch from Pennsylvania to Louisiana, and cut through an estimated 13 Kentucky counties, including Breckinridge, Hardin, Larue, Meade, and Nelson.

Some landowners in counties along the proposed pipeline route have expressed concerns that the company would seek to use eminent domain laws to seize their land.

Rep. Tilley said in a news release issued by his office that the bill he has pre-filed will “strive to maintain the proper balance between those rights and economic development when it comes to safely transporting fossil fuels.”

"I believe the state needs to paint a brighter line on how pipelines like this are built and where they can be located."

The bill would put the Public Service Commission in the role of gatekeeper if those constructing pipelines can’t reach agreement with private landowners.