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Kentucky House approves bill making Louisville elections nonpartisan

Men seated at wooden desks looking down
J. Tyler Franklin
Republican State Rep. Jason Nemes of Louisville (right) is the primary sponsor of House Bill 388.

House Bill 388 would strip party affiliation from the ballot for Louisville mayor and Metro Council.

The Republican-dominated state House passed House Bill 388 on a party-line vote Tuesday, over the objection of the majority of Louisville’s representatives. Lawmakers rejected a last-minute amendment from Democratic state Rep. Sarah Stalker of Louisville, which would have put the question of nonpartisan local races to Louisville voters.

State Rep. Pamela Stevenson, another Louisville Democrat, said on the House floor that supporters of HB 388 had no evidence residents wanted the change. She said her constituents in west Louisville would like to keep the mayoral and Metro Council elections as they are.

“Why is it that we constantly go against the people of Louisville?” Stevenson said. “Don’t we think they know what they need and want? If not, maybe we should just disband democracy.”

The final vote in the House was 70-20.

In addition to nonpartisan elections, HB 388 also addresses issues related to Louisville’s 2003 city-county merger. The bill would require Metro Government to spend more state road funding in suburban communities, and Metro Government would have to reimburse suburban fire districts for any EMS runs they make into the urban core.

The EMS reimbursements will cost Louisville Metro $6.6 million per year, according to the Legislative Research Commission.

Many of the proposed changes in HB 388 come from recommendations made by the Comprehensive Review Commission last year, which evaluated Louisville’s merger.

The bill will now head to the Senate where it may face tougher opposition.

In recent years, Senate Republicans have proposed bills that would institute partisan elections for the Kentucky Board of Education and make all local elections in Kentucky partisan.

State government and politics reporting is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL. Email Roberto at rroldan@lpm.org.

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