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.

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