The News Enterprise: Path to Consolidation Easier to Understand Now

The following editorial first appeared in The News-Enterprise on April 10, 2012.  The full, online version can be seen here:

ISSUE: Passage of House Bill 189
 A model of cooperation for all to follow

An issue that surfaced during preliminary discussions about restructuring government in Hardin County has led to a revision of state law.

House Bill 189 clarifies a legal ambiguity in previous legislation allowing voters to consider unified government.

As revised, voters in existing cities and towns can reject the concept of governmental merger even if the county vote as a whole favors the concept.

This self-determination provision, which was developed to address concerns here in Hardin County, also was extended by legislators to apply to residents of unincorporated areas.

The community organization known as Hardin County United asked local leaders and residents last year to consider forming a panel to study and formulate a plan for merged government.

Voters would have final say over any final draft. Thanks to passage of this bill, we now know how those votes would be tallied. State Rep. Jimmie Lee and state Sen. Dennis Parrett deserve some of the credit for shepherding the issue through Frankfort.

Even if local officials never move any further toward the concept of governmental consolidation here, the changes make for good law. Protecting the voice of a local constituency from becoming caught in a larger neighbor’s enthusiasm is the best practice.

After all, this entire issue revolves around the idea that the people form the government. The basic question regarding consolidated government is finding a system that makes the most sense for most of us.

But passage of HB 189 has a second value never anticipated when the idea surfaced.

It demonstrates the value of a cooperative spirit in the legislative process. Good things still can happen, even in a frequently dysfunctional body such as the General Assembly, when people listen and look for consensus.

Authors of the bill worked with the Kentucky League of Cities and Kentucky Association of Counties to address unique concerns of both organizations. This consensus-building process smoothed the legislative channels by eliminating missteps and turning potential opponents into advocates for the legislation.

It was so well managed, in fact, the bill received no negative votes along the way. Unanimous passage is rare but HB 189 went through the Senate and the House (twice) with all yes votes.

It would be naive to expect any sort of unanimous voice when reorganizing local government resurfaces for discussion locally. But we all should be looking for the same level of reasonable discussion and the same cooperative nature.

When that kind of communication occurs in government, everyone wins.

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.

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