Proposal would allow voters to fill vacant Metro Council seats - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Proposal would allow voters to fill vacant Metro Council seats

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Metro Council chamber Metro Council chamber

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A Kentucky state representative from Louisville has filed a bill that would change the way vacant Metro Council seats are filled.

Currently, the council selects the replacement, but House Bill 98 would require a special election in the district within 60 days of the vacancy. Metro Council would reimburse the county clerk for the expense.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. McKenzie Cantrell (D-Louisville) who lives in the district that was represented by former Councilman Dan Johnson.

When Johnson was removed from office for official misconduct, Metro Council interviewed 13 candidates to fill the vacant 21st District seat, and four days later, selected Vitalis Lanshima to serve Johnson’s unexpired term.

Cantrell said she has no problem with Lanshima, but did have a problem with the process.

“We need to give power back to the people,” Cantrell told WDRB News.

Cantrell said prospective Metro Council members should have to face the voters in a special election, the same way vacant seats are filled in the General Assembly.

“We're always been elected by our communities, and I think we should keep it that way from the top down,” she said.

House Bill 98 has bipartisan support. Republican Jason Nemes of Middletown is co-sponsor. “What is perverse about the system as it is today in Louisville, is that people in my district, had more of a say in who represented the people in the south end, than the people in the south end did. And that's not right,” said Nemes.

New Metro Council President David James said the current law is a holdover from the old days of the Board of Aldermen. He said the council will soon take up a resolution supporting the change. “I'm personally for that, and many, many, many of our council members are for that,” said James.

James said council members generally do not enjoy the process of filling vacant seats. “We know our districts, but we don't know that council person's district. So having us appoint a person that will represent that district is us just making the best guess that we can,” he said.

James said Frankfort wrote the law creating the Metro Council, so Frankfort needs to fix it.

A legislative committee could hold a hearing on the bill as early as this week.

“I'm not trying to take power away from Metro Council,” said Cantrell. “I'm trying to give power back to the people.”

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