Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Editorials

May 4, 2014

Home rule

House bill would cause many cities to drop in status

ASHLAND — For the first time in anyone’s memory, the state of Kentucky soon will no longer officially designate Ashland as a second-class city. For that matter, area cities ranging in size from Flatwoods to South Shore are losing their state designations as third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-class cities.

House Bill 331 approved by the 2014 Kentucky General Assembly changes the number of classifications for Kentucky cities from six to two. Louisville and Lexington will be designated as first-class cities, while all other Kentucky cities ranging size from the smallest municipality to relatively large cities like Bowling Green, Owensboro, Covington, Newport  and Ashland will be designated under the new “home rule class” of cities.

Just what the change will mean remains to be seen, but we hope it means just what the new designation says it does: That legislators in Frankfort are finally willing to give cities of all sizes true home rule by allowing cities to make decisions on taxes, alcohol sales and other issues on the local level, something the Kentucky General Assembly has never been willing to do.

However, we would be much more confident that legislators are truly interested in giving cities more power to make their own decisions if the new law had not “grandfathered” existing city ordinances regardless of the classification. That is a sure sign that at least some legislators are still unwilling to give cities true home rule.

The grandfather clause in the new law is also why Glasgow Mayor Rhonda Trautman has called the new law “a good start” but quickly adds legislators need to do more to give cities the “home rule” they desire and deserve.

The outgoing classification of cities has always confused residents. For example, residents of Louisa briefly began circulating petitions to legalize the sale of alcohol in the Lawrence County seat, but that effort was halted when petitioners learned Louisa was not large enough to hold a local option referenm to allow alcohol sales.

Like Ashland, Richmond is a second-class city and barred from enacting a restaurant tax. Richmond Mayor Jim Barnes thinks that’s unfair. The restaurant tax is paid by both residents and visitors who dine in local restaurants, and Barnes believes it would be a good, reasonably non-controversial source of much needed revenue for the city. Barnes rightfully wonders why legislators would allow a tax in some cities but not others. And why should legislators in Frankfort even care why Richmond or any other city has a restaurant tax? Enacting such a tax clearly should be a local decision, and if local residents don’t like the tax, they can vote against those who supported it at the next city election. That’s the way representative government it supposed to work.

Another inconsistency in the existing city classification is that Elizabethtown is a fourth-class city, while nearby Radcliff is a second-class city, even though Elizabethtown is the larger  city. Thus, Elizabethtown has a restaurant tax, but Radcliff, which mainly serves the sprawling Fort Knox military base, is barred from enacting one.

It is because of such inconsistencies that Trautman hopes the new 379-page law will “even the playing field” by addressing and eliminating existing inequities among laws governing cities. For it to do that, future General Assemblies must do much more to prove they are serious about giving local governments more powers. After all, our political leaders in Congress say decisions on taxes, education and other issues are best made at the local level, but in Kentucky, state laws prohibit school boards, county fiscal courts and city commissions and councils from making those decisions.

Our hope is the new “home rule class” will actually give cities home rule, but we have our doubts.

1
Text Only
Editorials
  • Positive trend

    For those adults who have a low opinion of American teenagers, Uncle Sam’s latest study of worrisome behavior among teens provides some good news: Teens are smoking less, drinking less and fighting less. Most forms of drug use, weapons use and risky sex also are declining — and have been since 1991, the year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first started surveying teens about  their behavior.

    July 24, 2014

  • Research's value

    In pushing for a higher education reform bill in the late 1990s, former Gov. Paul Patton set an ambitious goal of having the University of Kentucky become a Top 20 research university by 2020. UK has yet to accomplish that goal, but UK and the University of Louisville both have made great advances in research in recent years.

    July 24, 2014

  • Deadline is near

    People with Kentucky driver’s licenses may soon be required to show a passport or some other accepted form of federal identification to enter “restricted” or “semi-restricted” areas of federal facilities, including federal courthouses, military bases, federal prisons and a wide range of other federal offices.

    July 23, 2014

  • Issue is safety

    The Kentucky High School Athletic Association’s Board of Control has recommended softball  “players at first base, third base and pitcher utilize the permissive requirement in the playing rules and wear face/head protection.”

    July 23, 2014

  • More difficult

    In a state like Kentucky with the number of adults who have not graduated from high school is much higher than the national average, undereducated adults have been encouraged to earn high-school equivalency degrees by studying for, taking and passing the General Educational Development (GED) test.

    May 22, 2014

  • Primary election sends messages

    The voters — or at least the minority who took the time to go to the polls Tuesday — have spoken, with Boyd County voters sending mixed messages in the county-wide races that gathered the most attention.

    May 21, 2014

  • Click it or Ticket

    "Click it or Ticket” is a phrase used so often in recent years most of us hardly give it a thought.

    May 21, 2014

  • Top trooper

    Thumbs up to Trooper First Class Shane Goodall of Flatwoods for being named 2013 Trooper of the Year for Kentucky.

    May 20, 2014

  • 05/18/2014 — This Week in the Tri-State

    Local news

    May 18, 2014

  • 0518greene.jpeg Greene-Lounsberry

    John and Eva Greene of Greenup are proud to announce the engagement of their daughter, Stacey Nicole Greene, to Jonathan Wesley Lounsberry.

    May 18, 2014 1 Photo