Saturday, March 5, 2011

Bills to raise city's classification go to governor

The legislature gave final passage yesterday to bills that would make Midway a fourth-class city, allowing it to enforce alcoholic-beverage laws and get related fees, among other things. Because it is a fifth-class city, those rights and responsibilities now rest with the county.

The reclassification is in two bills that were amended to include Midway: a Senate bill amended by Rep. Carl Rollins, D-Midway, left, and a House bill amended by a Senate committee. The Senate concurred in Rollins' amendment and repassed its bill 34-3, and the House concurred in the Senate amendment to the other bill and passed it 91-4, sending both to Gov. Steve Beshear for his signature or veto.

Midway lacks the 3,000 minimum population that the state constitution may require for a fourth-class city. Its population at the 2000 census was 1,620 and was recently estimated by the census to be 2,019. The official 2010 census figure has not been released.

The constitutional rules on classification are open to interpretation, and the bill Rollins amended would move at least two other cities with fewer than 3,000 people, Greensburg and Guthrie, up to fourth class. (See our previous item on the bill for the details on the legalities.) The bill would also raise to fourth class Junction City in Boyle County, which the census estimates has exceeded the 3,000 threshold in the last few years. One of the four House members voting against the other bill was Rep. Mike Harmon, R-Danville, whose district includes Junction City.

Midway is the only city in both bills. The other bill would also raise Sadieville in Scott County from sixth to fifth class, though it is far short of the 1,000 minimum for that class. It would do likewise for Wurtland in Greenup County, which meets the guidelines.

Rollins said in an interview that he thinks the constitution gives the legislature authority to classifiy cities as it wishes. The bills say "satisfactory information has been presented to the General Assembly that the population" of Midway and the other fifth-class towns "is such as to justify its being classified as a city of the fourth class."

Rollins introduced the measure, and an identical bill last year, at the request of Mayor Tom Bozarth and the city council. The main motive for the change is the city's desire to have its own alcoholic beverage administrator. That power now rests with County Judge-Executive John Coyle. Versailles is a fourth-class city and runs its own alcohol affairs.

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