Politics

The state Senate passed a bill giving more power to the Louisville Metro Council despite protests from Democrats that the state-directed policies amount to a seizure of local control.

The legislation has been softened considerably from previous versions; a requirement that vacancies on Metro Council be filled by someone who belongs to the same party as the former member has been removed.

Most notably, the bill no longer tightens term limits for the mayor of Louisville from three consecutive terms to two.

Sen. Morgan McGarvey, a Louisville Democrat, said residents need to be brought into discussions about any changes to their Metro Council.

“I just think we need to be concerned in general about having Frankfort over-legislate what happens in Louisville,” McGarvey said. “We have a lot of good things going on in Louisville right now and I’m not sure that Frankfort needs to be meddling in it.”

The new version of the legislation also removed a requirement that the political caucuses on Metro Council hire between two and four staff members — a provision opposed by Metro Councilman Bill Hollander during a committee hearing on Thursday.

But the bill still makes notable changes to the council’s structure, like the creation of an audit committee that would have power to subpoena witnesses, administer oaths and investigate agencies.

Metro council would also be in charge of reviewing no-bid contracts with costs greater than $50,000.

Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican from Manchester, said that concerns about state lawmakers waging a “war on Louisville” are exaggerated.

“I think that is something that people are just trying to raise a political specter when there really is not one,” Stivers said. “Individuals understand that to have a consolidated government, a metro government like Louisville has, it had to be done here in Frankfort. So when there’s times for corrections and modifications it has to go through here in Frankfort.”

The bill will now go to the House, where a more expansive version has been filed by Rep. Ken Fleming, a former Metro Council member.

After the Senate’s version of the bill passed, Fleming said he would review his legislation.

After the state legislature authorized a referendum, 54 percent of Jefferson County residents voted in favor of merging the county with the city of Louisville in November 2000.

The official union took place on Jan. 1, 2003.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.