Commonwealth Journal

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June 18, 2014

KLC to help shine light on changes to classifications

Frankfort, Ky. —

The Kentucky League of Cities (KLC) has prepared a fact sheet to help city officials and citizens understand voluminous House Bill 331 that does away with arbitrary classification of cities established by the 1891 Kentucky constitution.
Effective January 1, 2015, HB 331 creates two classes of cities based on the form of government. Louisville will be a first-class city and all the rest, including the five municipalities in Pulaski County, will be home rule cities.
Somerset, Burnside and Ferguson have mayor-council forms of government; Eubank and Science Hill have mayor-commission forms of government. The legislation does not require any city to make changes in its form of government. Any change would be subject to a vote in cities wanting to change.
Home rule authority, given to cities in 1980, will be a bigger player under provisions of HB 331. Cities in Kentucky currently have the power to govern within their boundaries without specific legislation authorizing each particular function. Before 1980, cities had to rely almost exclusively on the General Assembly to authorize various functions. With home rule, cities can function in any way that does not directly conflict with state or federal law.
  HB 331 is drafted in a manner that makes every effort to do no harm to any individual city by not expanding mandates currently applicable to certain classes of cities, and by not removing authority from any individual city that it possessed due to its classification, said KLC. The complex legislation was developed over two years by a task force of city officials headed by KLC president and Midway Mayor Tom Bozarth.
  “For too long, city governments struggled with restrictions and red tape from an outdated classification system,” KLC said. More than a third of Kentucky cities have a classification that does not match population requirements.
  Sen. Chris Girdler, R-Somerset, who supported and voted for HB 331, said the measure “levels the playing field” for small rural cities in Kentucky. “It doesn’t give advantages to certain cities because of class,” he said.

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