LOUISVILLE, Ky. — With time winding down for the General Assembly in Frankfort, some Democratic Louisville Metro Council members called on the state delegation to meet with them about House Bill 309 (HB 309) during a Tuesday morning press conference at Louisville’s City Hall.
“If House Bill 309 passes, it is going to pass with the votes of people who do not represent Jefferson County,” said Councilman Bill Hollander (D-9) at the press event. Metro Council President David James (D-6) and Councilman Marcus Winkler (D-17) were also in-person at the press event, while other members of Metro Council’s Democratic Caucus joined virtually.
Various members stated their opposition to the Republican-sponsored House bill, now in the hands of the state Senate, which did not vote on the legislation Tuesday.
The council’s Democratic Caucus Chair, Winkler, said HB 309 is a bad idea but invited Frankfort lawmakers to craft legislation with Louisville lawmakers.
“We are inviting our state delegation, both Republican and Democrat, to meet with us to discuss the issues we are facing locally and how to best solve them collectively for the benefit of all of our citizens,” Winkler said.
One of the issues Democrat Metro Council members have with HB 309 is subpoena power for civilian review boards. Louisville established a civilian review board to review police and accountability after protests over Breonna Taylor’s death by Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD).
“And we asked our legislators in Frankfort to please provide the civilian review board with subpoena power so that they can add transparency, accountability, and trust between the police department and the community,” James said.
Previously, HB 309 would have given the civilian review board subpoena power through a request of Metro Council’s Government Oversight and Audit Committee, which Metro Democrat leaders made clear on Tuesday they don’t want, preferring the inspector general that would lead the civilian review board to have the subpoena powers.
On Monday, the bill’s Republican sponsor State Rep. Jerry Miller, who serves part of Oldham and Jefferson Counties, removed the subpoena power part of the bill, according to spokeswoman Laura Leigh Goins with the House’s Republican Majority Caucus. She also said lawmakers are still working on the bill.
Louisville Metro Council’s Republican Caucus Chair, Councilman Anthony Piagentini (R-19), told Spectrum News 1 during an interview following Tuesday’s press event that with the subpoena power part removed, HB 309 is now entirely focused on rebalancing power between the Mayor’s Office and Metro Council.
“For example, it creates term limits, moves it from three-term limits for a Mayor‘s Office to two. It gives Metro Council the ability to have our own attorneys represent us, as opposed to using the county attorney, which has been a conflict of interest in the past,” Piagentini said.
Another part of HB 309 requires a local council to approve the proposed annexation of a city within a county if there is a petition in favor of the proposal signed by 75% or more of the residents
Metro Council Democrats said Tuesday that goes against what was voted on in the city/county merger in 2003.
“When it comes to annexation, creating additional cities when the citizens of Jefferson County already voted that they didn’t want additional cities, that speaks for itself,” said James.
While Piagentini said if over 75% of residents want the city to be annexed, then the local government has no place to reject it.
“I think this actually restores power to the people and removes layers of government bureaucracy for making decisions on who should represent the best local governance,” Piagentini told Spectrum News 1.
HB 309 would also require Louisville Metro Council’s Government Oversight and Audit Committee to approve legal or administrative settlements of $1 million or more, if not already within the enacted budget ordinance.
“The way that that is written and the unintended consequences of that could be more costly for the citizens of Jefferson County,” James said during the Tuesday morning press event.
Piagentini told Spectrum News 1 that this is a part of the bill that he is open to further discussion on. “This is one area where I do think there needs to be additional detail vetted out,” he said. “I do, of course, as a metro councilman want to see more control and oversight from the Metro Council over these huge financial decisions that are ultimately being paid by taxpayers.”
A big question in all of this is if Frankfort is overreaching when it comes to making decisions for Louisville Metro.
“Those votes will come from people who do not represent Jefferson County or who don’t live in Jefferson County. To me, that’s just wrong,” Hollander said.
Piagentini said what happens in Jefferson County impacts tax revenue for Kentucky so state representatives get to weigh in.
“Simultaneously, Jefferson County state representatives get to weigh in on issues related to Pike County, and Daviess County, and other counties across the Commonwealth. That’s how this works. That’s how it’s always worked, and that’s not an unusual circumstance,” Piagentini said.