Legislation Introduced in the Kentucky General Assembly to Assure the Integrity of a Community’s Vote on Unified Government
House Bill 190 and Senate Bill 78 Seek to Assure Communities that the Votes of their Citizens will Count When it Comes to Determining Final Participation in a Unified Government Plan
Elizabethtown, Kentucky (January 6, 2012) – Hardin County United (HCU) today announced that legislation has been filed in both the Kentucky State House of Representatives and the Kentucky State Senate. The companion bills – House Bill 190, introduced by State Representative Jimmie Lee (D-Elizabethtown) and State Representative Tim Moore (R-Elizabethtown), and, Senate Bill 78, introduced by Senator Dennis Parrett (D-Elizabethtown) – are designed to affirm the intent of the majority of voters participating in a community-wide referendum on unified government.
HCU launched its unified government initiative on August 4, 2011. The process, as specified under existing state law, first requires county government along with city governments that wish to participate in the process to pass an ordinance which creates the Unification Review Commission. The Commission, once established, will include between 20 and 40 citizens appointed by the various participating governments. It is the Commission’s responsibility to develop a plan for unified government which will include county government and the participating municipal governments. Once the plan has been completed, it is to be submitted to the voters in the participating jurisdictions for review and approval.
As HCU presented its findings to the community on the potential benefits of unified government, concern was expressed by several elected officials about how an individual community’s vote on unified government would be handled in relation to the votes in the other jurisdictions. In other words, and, hypothetically speaking, if voters in the county and say five of the six Hardin County cities voted to unify, what would happen to the city who’s voters voted not to unify?
“Hardin County United has been clear from the beginning that the intent of the majority of a community’s voters must be respected,” said Hardin Circuit Court Judge Ken Howard, Chairperson of HCU’s Governance Subcommittee. “If a majority of voters in a given city vote no on unification, even though the other jurisdictions vote yes on unification, then it is our view that the community that voted no should be allowed to remain a free-standing community.”
“Existing state law is not as clear as it needs to be on this issue,” said State Representative Jimmie Lee. “The intent of our bill is to clear up any ambiguity that exists in order to provide voters in a given community complete assurance that the majority view on unified government as expressed by the voters in that community will be upheld.”
House Bill 190 and Senate Bill 78 were introduced during the first week of the Regular Session which convened in Frankfort on January 3, 2012. “This is an important next step in HCU’s initiative to bring a plan of unified government to the voters of Hardin County and its cities,” said Luke B. Schmidt, consultant to HCU. “Many good questions have been raised by citizens during our 25+ community presentations on this issue. Most of these questions can’t be answered until the Unification Review Commission is appointed and it drafts its plan, which will be submitted to the voters for their careful review and consideration.”
“I have consulted with local elected officials and believe that new legislation is necessary to clarify existing statutes. With the passage of this bill, any city council that chooses to approve the establishment of a Unification Review Commission can do so with the confidence that the voters in their respective community will have the final say as to whether they participate in a unified government,” said Representative Tim Moore. “City Councils will have the authority to allow participation. And, if the unification process is initiated by their locally elected officials, the majority of voters in a given community will determine the outcome for each community.”
“I look forward to raising this important issue with my colleagues in the Senate,” said State Senator Dennis Parrett. “Voters voting on a plan of unified government need to feel confident that their community’s wishes on the issue will be respected – passage of Senate Bill 78 will make this happen.”
HCU believes that there are four primary benefits to unifying local government in Hardin County, including:
1. The attainment of a new level of clout as Kentucky’s third largest community that will assist the entire community in the creation of new jobs,
2. The ability for the community to speak with one voice and more efficiently target grants and appropriations which will benefit the entire community while improving the community’s standing and stature in Frankfort and Washington, D.C.,
3. Streamlined government which will result in the more efficient delivery of government services to all citizens, and,
4. The achievement of economies of scale which will result in the more efficient use of public resources (tax dollars).
“We view this as positive legislation,” said Schmidt. “This legislation impacts only those communities in Kentucky that are considering unified government and there is no fiscal impact on the Commonwealth – meaning no new taxes will be required in order to implement this legislation.”
More information on HCU’s unified government initiative can be found by visiting HCU’s Web site: www.hcu.lbschmidt.com.
Hardin County United (HCU) was established for the purpose of examining the various strategic goals which were established by the Hardin County Vision Project in 2010. The intent of HCU is to prioritize the goals and to develop implementation strategies. HCU’s leadership team includes Hardin County Judge/Executive Harry Berry who chairs the Steering Committee; Hardin County Chamber of Commerce President Brad Richardson, who chairs the Community Development Subcommittee; North Central Education Foundation President/CEO Al Rider, who chairs the Education Subcommittee; and Hardin Circuit Court Judge Ken Howard who chairs the Governance Subcommittee. Luke Schmidt, President of L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC, provides management and consulting services to HCU.