LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- A Louisville lawmaker is pitching a plan to force a special election the next time an unexpected vacancy opens up on Metro Council. It's a bipartisan effort led by a Democrat, but not every member of her own party intends to support the proposal borne from the recent situation with Councilman Dan Johnson.
The Kentucky House of Representatives returned to Frankfort this week facing fallout from the Hoover harassment scandal, a fight over pension reform and what's been described as a "brutal" budget session.
For Louisville Democrat, 38th District Representative McKenzie Cantrell, part of the focus was on filing House Bill 98, a plan to force special elections when a local council has an unexpected vacancy.
“This is no way a referendum on the process that recently took place,” said Rep. Cantrell, “but I was through that process able to see in my own neighborhood how that process affected the neighborhood and community members, affected the council and affected some of the candidates who were up for consideration.”
Recently the Louisville Metro Council ousted Dan Johnson then, as outlined by law, appointed a replacement who was voted in by the rest of the Metro Council members.
Representative Cantrell's effort to change the process has the support of a colleague from the other side of the aisle, a lawmaker with which she has developed a working relationship that we don't often hear about these days in politics.
“I don't live in that area but my council person had more of say in who will represent those people than the people who live there and that's not right," said HB98 co-sponsor, Representative Jason Nemes.
Nemes, the 33rd District Republican, sits on the House floor directly behind the Democrat Cantrell.
“I think he and I believe, in our core, in elections and I think that is where our interests have merged together on this bill in particular," said Rep. Cantrell.
But not everyone in her own party is jumping in to join HB98 including 42nd District Representative Reginald Meeks.
“Honestly, l'm fairly disappointed that we would get to the point where we are having special legislation about Louisville or any other city. That's a local issue," ”said Rep. Meeks.
Representative Meeks questions whether this is a fix looking for a problem since he believes the process worked properly in the Councilman Johnson situation.
He also takes issue with the cost which HB 98 would allow counties or cities to recoup from state coffers.
We reached out to the Jefferson County Clerk’s Election Center for insight into how much an average Metro Council special election would cost.
They responded explaining:
The approximate cost of a special election for a Metro Council District in Jefferson County, KY is $39,300. This analysis was performed on Metro Council District 19 which includes 23 precincts, 12 polling locations, and 29,635 voters. A breakdown of expenses are found below:
Election Officers: $28,400.00
Precinct Ballots: 7,500.00
Absentee (Balotar): 500.00
Area Supervisors: 400.00
Representatives Cantrell and Nemes downplay the cost factor as minimal pointing to their belief that the benefit to residents outweighs the cost.
Louisville Metro Council President David Yates responded to our request for comment on House Bill 98 with the following statement:
“I always support direct democracy and believe the people of our diverse community should decide whom shall represent them. I am generally supportive of the proposal but still have many questions regarding the cost to taxpayers. I want to ensure that the language of the bill considers all cases and understands if there would be a time when a special election would be cost ineffective. I look forward to continued discussions with the sponsors and our state colleagues to ensure this legislation benefits our citizens.”
We have yet to hear back from Mayor Greg Fischer with his thoughts on the proposal.
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