FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 12, 2014) — The local option, which would give Kentucky citizens the right to vote on making investments in their communities, took a significant step forward Tuesday morning when a legislative committee approved the measure and sent it to the full House of Representatives for consideration.
The House Committee on Elections, Constitutional Amendments, and Intergovernmental Affairs approved the measure 6 to 3, with bipartisan support. Republicans Bart Rowland and Kevin Bratcher joined Democrats Sannie Overly, Darryl Owens, Derrick Graham and Mary Lou Marzian in supporting the measure.
[pullquote_left]“I am glad to vote yes on this measure because I, like Rep. Graham, want to give my local community an option if they are willing to step forward and raise their own money and fund their own projects.” — Rep. Sannie Overly, D-Paris[/pullquote_left]
Overly, of Paris, said cities and counties she represents in Central Kentucky have projects that Frankfort cannot fund — and that is why she is a supporter of local option.
“Ever since I’ve been in Frankfort, I’ve had each and every one of my communities come to me and ask me for assistance with something in that community through the state budget process,” she said. “There isn’t enough money for our priorities and — as a result, as the end of the day — there is certainly not enough money for me to help with local community initiatives. I am glad to vote yes on this measure because I, like Rep. Graham, want to give my local community an option if they are willing to step forward and raise their own money and fund their own projects.”
Graham noted the long list of endorsements for local option, including chambers and economic development agencies statewide and in his community of Frankfort. “Why should we inhibit local governments in trying to initiate those local programs that would impact their local communities?” Graham asked.
The vote occurred one day after all eight living Kentucky governors endorsed the measure. It also came as a new poll, conducted by the LIFT Coalition, reinforced the strong support from all parts of Kentucky.
The poll of 700 voters showed that 61 percent of Kentuckians favor local option while 33 percent oppose, mirroring the Bluegrass State Poll released earlier this year. The poll shows broad support from Republicans (61 percent), Democrats (60 percent), Independents (59 percent) and Tea Party supporters (59 percent).
Significant support also comes from all parts of Kentucky — the Northern Kentucky region (67 percent), Lexington region (64 percent), Western Kentucky (61 percent), Louisville region (58 percent) and Eastern Kentucky (57 percent).
In addition, 52 percent of voters said they would have a positive reaction if their State Representative or Senator voted to put local option on the ballot for Kentucky citizens to decide — 29 percent said it would not affect their views of their elected officials and 14 percent would have a negative reaction. The poll also showed that nearly 7 in 10 voters — 69 percent — would support a state legislator who supports the ability of local voters to make their own decisions via local option.
The poll was conducted between Feb. 26 and March 3 by Voter Consumer Research and Garin-Hart-Yang of Washington D.C.
“Today’s vote shows the significant momentum of local option — people clearly want the right to vote,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, who spoke at today’s hearing. “Citizens across Kentucky want this right of direct democracy that people in 37 other states already have.”
Two local option bills are pending in the General Assembly — Senate Bill 135, filed by Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville and House Bill 399, heard today, whose primary sponsor is Rep. Tommy Thompson, D-Owensboro and the House Majority Whip. The house bill is co-sponsored by 16 others, including Republicans and Democrats and legislators from rural areas and large cities.
Local option has been endorsed by chambers and economic development groups statewide, from the Southeast Kentucky Chamber based in Pikeville to the Paducah Chamber of Commerce, which view it as an economic development tool that will also create jobs.
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear joined former governors Wendell Ford; Julian Carroll; John Y. Brown, Jr.; Martha Layne Collins; Brereton Jones; Paul Patton; and Ernie Fletcher in announcing their unified support for the effort on Monday.
“I very strongly support the LIFT initiative,” Beshear said. “When you look at Oklahoma City and hear what they have accomplished there, it makes you realize that communities in Kentucky need the same tools if we want to remain competitive.”
“Kentucky communities need to have every tool at their disposal to brand themselves as a great place to live and work and attract expanding companies and talented workers,” said Gov. Ernie Fletcher. “This could be a smart, effective strategy for communities who want to use it, and it should be up to those communities.”
If the legislation is approved, the issue will be on the ballot in November for voters to consider approving as a new right in the state constitution.