Hardin County United Supports Effort to Assure Voters’ Intent in Any Future Local Government Unification Vote
Elizabethtown, Kentucky – Hardin County United (HCU) today announced its support of an effort now underway by Hardin County legislators to revise existing state law in order to assure that any future vote which might be taken on local government unification respects the majority outcome of such a vote in each city.
HCU launched its unified government initiative on July 29, 2011. This initiative calls for the unification of Hardin County Government with each of the six existing municipal governments (Elizabethtown, Radcliff, Sonora, Upton, Vine Grove and West Point) under what is known as a Unified Local Government (as allowed by Kentucky Revised Statutes 67.900 – 67.940).
The process specified by Kentucky law requires each participating city along with the county to first pass an ordinance which creates the Unification Review Commission. The Commission, which consists of between 20 to 40 citizens, drafts the plan (charter) for the proposed unified government. Upon completion of its work, the Commission submits the plan to the voters for final review and approval.
The Unified Local Government concept, when first passed by the Kentucky General Assembly, was designed to provide flexibility to each city in a county which is considering unification in terms of participating on the Commission. In other words, it is up to each city council to decide if that city will participate in the Commission process. If the city council votes no on the ordinance which creates the Commission, that city remains a free-standing, intact city; however, it will not be given a seat at the table as the Commission designs the new unified government (nor will that city reap any of the benefits which will accrue to the unified community).
On the other hand, once the Commission has completed its work, the plan will be submitted to voters in the county and each participating city for review and approval. When the vote is taken, even if the majority of voters in one or more of the participating cities vote no on unification, those cities may still be subject to unification if the majority of all other voters approve unification.
“Speaking hypothetically, existing Kentucky law can be interpreted as requiring a city, let’s say Vine Grove to unify, even if the majority of Vine Grove voters voted no on unification and all of the other communities voted to unify,” said Luke B. Schmidt, consultant to HCU. “HCU has been clear from the beginning that a community’s vote needs to be respected…no means no. HCU believes that the law needs to be revised to assure the integrity of any community’s vote on unification,” Schmidt continued.
“I agree with HCU’s viewpoint that the law needs to be revised and clarified to allow Hardin County voters, in each of its cities, the flexibility to approve or not approve unification,” said State Representative Jimmie Lee (D-25th District). “I will be working with my colleagues in the General Assembly to bring about the changes needed in order to further strengthen this law and make it work for Hardin County,” said Lee.
“Many folks are concerned that their local city will be ‘forced’ into unification, even if the majority of voters in that city oppose unification,” said State Representative Tim Moore (R-26th District). “As this issue goes forward, we will need to be able to clarify the existing statutes and alleviate that concern. I look forward to working with my colleagues to assure the integrity of the vote in each community.”
“All aspects of unified government should be presented to the voters for their consideration,” stated State Senator Dennis Parrett (D-10th District). “Yet, when the plan is put forth, voters should rest assured that the majority vote from their community will be respected, be it positive or negative,” said Parrett.
Schmidt stated that the legislation will be drafted soon and filed at the earliest opportunity. Opportunities to partner with legislators from other counties which are considering unified government will be explored. In the interim, HCU will continue to communicate with each of the local government bodies and will keep each apprised of efforts to revise the law.
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; One Knox Executive Director 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.
Additional Contact Information:
The Honorable Jimmie Lee
Kentucky State Representative
The Honorable Tim Moore
Kentucky State Representative
The Honorable Dennis Parrett
Kentucky State Senator