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Mayors hear legislative update from state legislators Sen. Chris McDaniel and Rep. Steve Doan

By Patricia A. Scheyer
NKyTribune reporter

Fort Wright Mayor Dave Hatter opened the monthly mayors’ meeting Saturday, welcoming everyone and giving a brief synopsis of the agenda.

“Who is in favor of the annexation bill here?” he asked.

No one raised their hand.

Fort Wright Mayor Dave Hatter opens Mayor’s meeting (Photo by Trisha Scheyer/NKyTribune

Senator Chris McDaniel allowed Representative Steve Doan to talk about SB 141, which is the moratorium on annexation.

Doan painted a picture of a committee meeting where JD Chaney, from the Kentucky League of Cities, Randy Bridges, the Chair of the Local Government committee, and Jim Henderson, Executive Director of KACo, the Kentucky Association of Counties all sat together, and he joked that it looked like a North Korea hostage video. Eventually everyone arrived at a hard fought compromise, with what he termed some “arm twisting.”

“Originally, it was a flat out moratorium on annexation,” Doan said. “A couple of us in the local government committee, we listened to you all, so it does matter when you reach out to us, when you contact us and tell us what you want. We will listen.”

He told the group another anecdote about when a freshman from Eastern Kentucky pulled him aside in the hallway and asked him how to kill this bill with procedure, since Doan had already killed a bill that way. Doan laughed, and noted that leadership people were walking by at the time, and he said he was uncomfortable at the time because he felt it tipped off the people that they were going to try and kill the bill.

“We ended up putting our foot down in that committee, and because they didn’t have the votes to get it through the committee on a full annexation, we were able to broker that compromise,” Doan related. “Through both the leadership and KACo and the KLC, there were a few carve outs, but we came up with a 1-year moratorium, with a half court set up to go to see what annexation looks like.”

Sen. Chris McDaniel talked about legislation (Photo by Trisha Scheyer/NKyTribune)

He explained that what people are allowed to do is that if there is a substantial economic development project, they will still be permitted to annex that property. However, he told the group that a substantial economic development project is not defined in the statute or the ordinance, because it would look different in different areas.

“It leaves it up to your local officials to decide,” Doan said. “It leaves it up to your judges to decide, if there were to be litigation.”

Doan also explained that if any annexation had been started before the moratorium, it would be allowed. Adjacent property owners would still be able to be annexed, and they would have 45 days to file a suit and get that accomplished. He also said that consenting parties can still achieve annexation, because that is still in the bill.

“It is a good compromise,” he concluded. “It was the best we could do, considering the leadership on both sides wanted it to go through.”

Senator McDaniel said that his first experience with annexation was when he was a kid and he lived in Taylor Mill, but his friend across the street lived in Covington, something he thought was weird.

“I’ll be honest, the whole reason this annexation thing came about was disappointing to me because it’s about local governments feuding with one another,” he said. “I mean, we have our squabbles up here, and there is some annexation stuff that still occurs up here, but with a little cooperation, we sit down with the mayors like this, and we work together to avoid a lot of this. But the level of animosity that exists in some of these counties is just absolutely tremendous.”

He said he was proud of how the Northern Kentucky counties worked together, and though people described to him the bad feelings of the other counties, he hadn’t experienced it.

“I have no direct interface with that wicked level of how I ‘stick it to them’ layer of government,” he stated.

Independence Mayor Christopher Reinersman agreed, saying this bill would have created problems where there were none, and set cities and counties against one another.

Rep. Steve Doan addressed the annexation legislation

Representative Doan spoke later about a bill he helped to author which would have provided an exemption to the certificate of need that all medical facilities need to have.

“It’s not going to pass, no,” he said. “We’re trying to get an interim study on it to look at how do we update that for the rest of the state.”

He explained that it was a big task because there was opposition on both sides, as well as opposition from the hospital association.

“If we’re going to take this corrective action, we want to know that we’re not bankrupting hospitals in the process,” he said. “Because ultimately what’s going to happen is you’re going to have St Elizabeth, for example, stuck with Medicare/Medicaid only patients, and they’re basically going to go bankrupt, and all the self-pay insurance is going to go elsewhere.”

He did acknowledge it is an unfair system as it is.

“Oh, it’s absolutely a monopoly,” he stated. “It’s a government created monopoly. That structure is from the 1970’s. So we had federal certificates that said all the states need to promulgate these laws and regulations to ensure that this happens. Well, we repealed the federal law on it, but our state law is still in place from the 60’s or 70’s.”

Doan said what needs to happen is that everything needs to be updated in order to modernize the medical system. He indicated that he was interested to see what updates would work, and what they would need to repeal and replace.

“Health care is socialized and government-run,” he summarized. “The free market has been pushed out for so long, you just can’t throw it all back in.”

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