House Bill 189 is Signed into Law

Governor Steve Beshear Lauds Kentucky’s Progressive Communities Which Are Examining the Benefits of Merged Government

Elizabethtown, Kentucky (April 20, 2011) – Hardin County United (HCU) today announced yet another milestone in its initiative to bring a plan of unified government to the voters of Hardin County. During a ceremony this morning in the State Capitol in Frankfort, Governor Steven L. Beshear signed into law House Bill 189. HB 189 was supported by Hardin County United, the Kentucky League of Cities and the Kentucky Association of Counties.

Following its launch of the unified government initiative last fall, HCU pledged to address concerns expressed by several local officials regarding the need to clarify and strengthen existing statutory language pertaining to how a county can unify with one or more cities located within the county. HB 189 addresses these issues and accomplishes the following:

  • Strengthens the language and gives voters considering a plan of unified government the assurance that the integrity of their vote will be respected; if a majority of a city’s voters vote NO, then that city will remain a free-standing city as before, even if the other cities’ voters vote to unify
  • Specifies that the majority of voters in the unincorporated area of a county must also vote YES in order for merger to occur
  • Calls for merger to occur only when the voters in the county and the largest city in the county agree to merger, or, the county and a combination of cities which represent at least 50% of the municipal population agree to merger

“The passage of House Bill 189 provides progressive communities around the Commonwealth, including Hardin County, a great opportunity to examine and fully consider the benefits of merged government,” said Gov. Beshear. “In certain cases, merged or unified government will allow these progressive communities the opportunity to leverage real strength from their size, speak with one voice in Frankfort and Washington, streamline government, and achieve real economies of scale.”

“It is important to note that this legislation enjoyed widespread, bipartisan support,” said Luke B. Schmidt, President, L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC and consultant to HCU. “HB 189 never received a NO vote during its two committee hearings and during floor votes in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. Legislators from across the Commonwealth recognized the value that this legislation brings to progressive communities such as Hardin County that are considering the benefits of unified government.”

“Today marks an important milestone in the life of this project,” said Ken Howard, HCU Governance Subcommittee Chairperson. “We pledged last fall to come to Frankfort and work with the General Assembly to address the concerns which were expressed by several local elected officials. Now that Governor Beshear has signed HB 189 into law, all citizens of Hardin County can feel confident that when they are asked to consider a plan of unified government that the majority opinion expressed by the voters in their respective community will be assured. We believe that now is the time for the Greater Hardin County community to take the next step by creating the Unification Review Commission so that all citizens can see just what unified government might look like, and make an informed decision on the issue,” continued Howard.

Also participating in this morning’s ceremony from Hardin County were Rep. Jimmie Lee (D-Elizabethtown), Sen. Dennis Parrett (D-Elizabethtown), Wendell Lawrence, Lincoln Trail Area Development District Executive Director, Erin Rickett (HCU Governance Subcommittee member), along with other Members of the General Assembly and representatives of the Kentucky League of Cities.

Elizabethtown Metro Area Shows Strong Population Growth

MSA Outperformed all Kentucky MSAs Since 2010 Census

Elizabethtown, Kentucky (April 6, 2012) – Hardin County United (HCU) today announced that the Elizabethtown Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) outperformed all Kentucky MSAs in population growth in terms of the percentage change in population. The Elizabethtown MSA includes both Hardin and LaRue counties.

According to estimates provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, the Elizabethtown MSA grew by 2,029 people between April 1, 2010 and July 1, 2011. This represents a growth rate of 1.7%, which outperformed all other Kentucky MSAs (the Lexington MSA had the next highest rate of growth: 1.5%, followed by Clarksville/Hopkinsville at 1.4%; the Louisville MSA grew by 0.9%).

In another important ranking, the Elizabethtown MSA (out of 366 metros in the U.S.) ranked 63rd in its percentage change in population, again outperforming all other Kentucky MSAs (Lexington followed by ranking 85th, followed by Clarksville/Hopkinsville at 102nd; the Louisville MSA ranked 169th in percentage of change in population). The Elizabethtown MSA also moved up in its overall population ranking (out of 366 metros) from 314th to 313th largest metro.

Commenting on the strong growth figures, Hardin County United Chairman Harry L. Berry stated, “It is important to note that most of this growth occurred after the “big inhale/exhale” of base realignment at Fort Knox. In other words, this new growth, while indirectly impacted by Fort Knox, is not the direct result of increases to Fort Knox personnel related to BRAC.”

“Hardin County is indeed the beneficiary of the recent BRAC growth on Post…the question now becomes, how do we sustain this growth,” said Berry

This announcement follows on the heels of last year’s announcement that the Elizabethtown MSA led all 366 MSAs in personal income growth in 2010, after moving up from fourth place nationally in 2009. The Elizabethtown MSA also led the nation in growth in GDP in 2010.

Echoing the comments of Judge Berry, Luke B. Schmidt, consultant to HCU stated, “This is terrific news. The Elizabethtown MSA is leading the nation in several key indicators. People want to come here to take advantage of the opportunities that are present in the marketplace. It now becomes even more important for the community’s leaders to stay focused on maintaining and building on this growth. Unified government can provide a key opportunity for the community to come together, leverage its size and strengths to grow even more and create more new jobs,” said Schmidt.

A chart which illustrates the population growth figures for all Kentucky MSAs accompanies this press release. Additional information on HCU and its ongoing unified government initiative can be found by visiting the organization’s Web site: www.hardincountyunited.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.

Press Release: Kentucky State Senate Passes House Bill 189

Legislation Assures the Integrity of a Community’s Vote On a Plan for Unified Government

Elizabethtown, Kentucky (March 27, 2012) – Hardin County United (HCU) today announced that the Kentucky State Senate passed House Bill 189 by a vote of 36 – 0. House Bill 189, which was introduced by State Representative Jimmie Lee (D-Elizabethtown), and was supported by State Sen. Dennis Parrett (D-Elizabethtown) was passed earlier by the House of Representatives by a vote of 93 – 0. The language of House Bill 190, which had been previously introduced by Rep. Lee was rolled into the broader HB 189 which includes provisions pertaining to both unified government and charter government.

HB 189 was supported by Hardin County United and the Kentucky League of Cities.

Following-up on concerns initially expressed by several local elected officials, HCU pledged to work with the General Assembly to both clarify and strengthen existing statutory language pertaining to how a county can unify with one or more cities located within the county. Highlights of HB 189 include:

HB 189 strengthens the language and gives voters considering a plan of unified government the assurance that the integrity of their vote will be respected; if a majority of a city’s voters vote NO, then that city remains a free-standing city as before, even if the other cities’ voters vote to unify

HB 189 also specifies that the majority of voters in the unincorporated area of a county must also vote YES in order for merger to occur

HB 189 also calls for merger to occur only when the county and the largest city in the county agree to merger, or, the county and a combination of cities which represent at least 50% of the municipal population agree to merger

HB 189 provides protection for ALL voters

“I am pleased that the General Assembly agreed with our position on the need to strengthen and clarify the language,” said State Sen. Dennis Parrett. “HB 189 achieves all of the goals that we set at the beginning of the session on this issue. Voters can rest assured that if they are asked to consider and vote on a proposed plan of unified government that the wishes of the majority of voters in their community will be respected, regardless of the overall outcome,” said Parrett.

“Hardin County is growing and this legislation provides a path forward for the community to enter into a careful and deliberate dialogue about the potential benefits that unified government might provide,” said State Rep. Jimmie Lee.

“Each legislator that I met with on this issue quickly understood the need and the importance of protecting the integrity of any vote which might occur on unified government, not only in Hardin County, but throughout the Commonwealth,” said Luke B. Schmidt, President of L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC and consultant to HCU. “This legislation will have a positive impact across Kentucky,” said Schmidt.

Speaking for Hardin County United’s Governance Subcommittee, Hardin Circuit Court Judge Ken Howard thanked legislators for their leadership on this issue, “In addition to Rep. Lee and Sen. Parrett, HCU appreciates the support of Rep. Tim Moore (R-Elizabethtown), Rep. Jeff Greer (D-Brandenburg), Rep. Darryl Owens (D-Louisville), Rep. Arnold Simpson (D-Covington), and, Sen. Jimmy Higdon (R-Lebanon).”

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.

Press Release: Kentucky House of Representatives Passes House Bill 190

Vote of 94 – 0 Indicates Broad Support for Measure to Strengthen Unified Government Statute

Elizabethtown, Kentucky (January 18, 2011) – Hardin County United (HCU) today recognized the action taken by the Kentucky House of Representatives in passing House Bill 190 by a vote of 94 – 0. HB 190 was introduced by State Representative Jimmie Lee (D-Elizabethtown) and is co-sponsored by State Representatives Tim Moore (R-Elizabethtown), Darryl Owens (D-Louisville), and Arnold Simpson (D-Covington).

“I am pleased to report to the citizens of Hardin County who have been following the issue of unified government that their concerns about how an individual city’s citizens’ vote on a unified government plan will be treated have been heard loud and clear by the House of Representative,” said State Representative Jimmie Lee. “Voters can rest assured that HB 190 clearly states that if the majority of a city’s voters vote no on a plan for unified government, then that city will remain free-standing, even if other jurisdictions should vote yes for the plan,” said Lee.

“Passage of HB 190 by the House of Representatives represents another major step forward in HCU’s initiative to bring a plan on unified government to the citizens of Hardin County,” said Luke B. Schmidt, consultant to HCU. “HCU is following up on its commitment to address this issue,” said Schmidt.

“HCU appreciates the leadership that our Hardin County legislative delegation is bringing to this issue,” said Hardin Circuit Court Judge Ken Howard, Chair of HCU’s Governance Subcommittee. “We look forward to turning our attention to the Kentucky State Senate in moving this issue through to final passage” said Howard.

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.

Press Release: 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.hardincountyunited.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.

Press Release: Elizabethtown/Hardin County Industrial Foundation Endorses the Establishment of the Unification Review Commission

Elizabethtown/Hardin County Industrial Foundation Endorses the Establishment of the Unification Review Commission

EIF is the Fifth Organization to Opt to Learn More about Unified Government

Elizabethtown, Kentucky (November 23, 2011) – Hardin County United (HCU) today announced that the Elizabethtown/Hardin County Industrial Foundation Board of Directors recently voted to endorse the establishment of the Unification Review Commission. The Foundation is the fifth organization in Hardin County to step forward and state its support for the development of the Commission.

“HCU is pleased to have the support of the Elizabethtown/Hardin County Industrial Foundation,” said Luke B. Schmidt, President, L.B. Schmidt & Associates, LLC, and consultant to HCU. “The Foundation recognizes the value that the Commission brings to the table regarding the development of a comprehensive plan that can be presented to the voters concerning how unified government might work in Hardin County,” said Schmidt.

Under Kentucky law, local governments can unify under the Unified Local Government concept by combining county government with one or more participating city governments. Participation is optional and in order for a local government entity to potentially participate in unified government it must first pass an ordinance which establishes a Unification Review Commission.

Once established, the Commission, which will consist of between 20 and 40 citizens appointed by the participating government bodies, will draft a unified government plan which will be presented to the voters for final approval. Passage of the ordinance does not in itself create merger, nor does it mean that any city council, or fiscal court, is approving merger.

“Hardin County has always been one of the most progressive communities in Kentucky,” said Ken Howard, HCU Governance Subcommittee Chairperson. “HCU appreciates the recognition on the part of the Foundation’s Board of Directors that it is important for the community to take the next step to actually develop a plan which will detail how unified government might be structured in the community. Only then will we know the answers to the many good questions which have been raised about this issue,” said Howard.

HCU believes that there are four primary benefits to be gained by unifying local governments, including:

1. The attainment of a new level of clout that will assist the entire community with economic development, the creation of new jobs and which will create Kentucky’s third largest community,

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)

The Elizabethtown/Hardin County Industrial Foundation joins the Hardin County Library Board of Trustees, the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, the Cecilia Ruritan Club and the Glendale Lions Club in calling for the creation of the Commission. Interested citizens can learn more about unified government and its benefits by visiting the HCU Web site: www.hardincountyunited.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.

The News-Enterprise: HCU plan pitched at chamber luncheon meeting

Speaker says listeners are open-minded

The following article by Amber Coulter appeared in The News-Enterprise on October 13, 2011. You can see the full, online version here: www.thenewsenterprise.com/content/hcu-plan-pitched-chamber-luncheon-meeting

Ken Howard learns more about what residents think about unified government and what it might look like every time he speaks to a civic organization.

Howard, circuit judge and Hardin County United’s governance committee chairman, addressed a Hardin County Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday at Pritchard Community Center in Elizabethtown. He talked to members about potential advantages of unification and reasons to support creation of a commission that would further explore the issue. Howard said the best ideas related to unification tend to come from people offering ideas in small group settings.

“I know that we have not thought of all the good ideas yet,” he said.

The most consistent sentiment Howard hears when he discusses potential advantages of a unified government with residents is that it’s an interesting idea, maybe a good idea, but it never will be put into place.

Howard tells them that the idea could become a reality if enough people support it.

Most people are open-minded about the idea of unification and are willing to listen and think about it, he said.
For now, the goal of Hardin County United is to gain approval for creation of a commission that would draft a plan for how a unified government would operate.

The commission would consist of 20 to 40 residents appointed by participating governmental organizations and provide voters with a better idea of how unification would impact the area. Howard said people often say there should be more information available about unification.

“They’re exactly right,” he said. “We need more information.”

Howard said the trouble is that he and others who support creating a commission can’t give many details about the impact of unification because it’s impossible to know what plan the commission would draft.

The commission would not enact unification and being part of a commission wouldn’t be a sign that a participating organization supports unification, he said.

Enacting the change would require a vote, and state legislation is planned to make sure that a city would only be part of a unified government if that city’s residents approve the measure.

Unification isn’t an issue of governmental entities performing badly, Howard said.

“Our current government is at least good,” he said.

Howard said it’s important to make sure residents periodically evaluate whether their governmental entities are the most effective they can be or whether they continue to operate the way they do because that’s how things have always been done.

“Do we want to think about, do we want to know about, do we want to decide about our own government,” he said.

Potential advantages include showing off the area’s population to make it more attractive for businesses, Howard said. What businesses now see as Elizabethtown, the state’s 11th-largest town, and Radcliff, the 17th-largest, would join with other parts of the county to become the third-largest community in the state, he said

Already, about 85,000 Hardin County residents live in the same geographic area as Bowling Green’s estimated 54,000 residents, he said.

“The reality is that we do not have two populations,” he said. “We have one population.”

Unification also would give the area one large voice and increase how often state and national officials consider Hardin County in their plans, Howard said.

“What would our community look like if we worked well together on every project, not just the large projects?” he asked.

Howard doesn’t know how likely it is that a commission will be approved. He encourages residents to let officials know what they think about the idea of forming a commission.

Unified Government Community Forum, Part 7

HCU has presented the findings of its year-long examination of the issue of unified government for Hardin County in a number of community forums since July 29. On August 4, 2011 HCU hosted a community forum at the Hardin County Schools’ Performing Arts Center to discuss the possibility of unified government in the county. The video below is Part 7 and the final part of the forum.

If you’ve not been able to attend any of the public forums, we hope you’ll benefit from watching these videos. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Unified Government Community Forum, Part 6

HCU has presented the findings of its year-long examination of the issue of unified government for Hardin County in a number of community forums since July 29. On August 4, 2011 HCU hosted a community forum at the Hardin County Schools’ Performing Arts Center to discuss the possibility of unified government in the county. The video below is Part 6 of the forum.

If you’ve not been able to attend any of the public forums, we hope you’ll benefit from watching these videos. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Check back tomorrow for Part 7 of the video, which concludes the forum.

Unified Government Community Forum, Part 5

HCU has presented the findings of its year-long examination of the issue of unified government for Hardin County in a number of community forums since July 29. On August 4, 2011 HCU hosted a community forum at the Hardin County Schools’ Performing Arts Center to discuss the possibility of unified government in the county. The video below is Part 5 of the forum.

If you’ve not been able to attend any of the public forums, we hope you’ll benefit from watching these videos. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Check back tomorrow for Part 6 of the video, which continues the question and answer portion.