Here’s this session’s “War on Louisville” bills Skip to content

Here’s this session’s “War on Louisville” bills

Including a few you may have missed

4 min read

It’s almost an axiom that the largest city in a state is ridiculed / slandered / disparaged by the rest of the state. Ask rural Georgians how they feel about Atlanta, or upstate New Yorkers about the Big Apple.

It is rare, though, for a state’s legislature to actively attack its largest city. This is because most legislators know that, as irritating as the thought may be, their state’s largest city is a large part of their economy, which means a large part of the funding of state government, which in turn helps pay their salaries and pay for the bills they pass.

And it’s even more rare for the legislators from that state’s largest city to lead the charge in the legislative attacks.

But here in Kentucky, not only do we have the legislature constantly putting up bills that harm Louisville; those bills are often sponsored by legislators from Louisville. It’s as if they hate their own home town.

But in fact, what they hate is that as Republicans, they don’t have control of this Big Blue Dot in their very red state. So, in order to get control, they pass bills in the safe environs of the state capitol in Frankfort.

They’ve done it for years, and increasingly so as their party has gained a super majority in the General Assembly. And this session, they’re back at it with a vengeance – no matter how innocently they try to proclaim that they are not.

So, here’s your War on Louisville Scorecard – at least as of this 34th day of the session.

HB 388 – The “Mess with Louisville” Omnibus Bill

This bill is a “kitchen sink” bill, with changes and effects in multiple parts of the city’s money and government. The change that has drawn the most attention is to make the mayor and council elections non-partisan. Obviously, Republicans hope that when there isn’t an R by their name, they might be able to be elected mayor. (The bill is sponsored by people who want to run for mayor, or have expressed interest in doing so in the past.) It should be noted that the citizens of the city voted in 2000 to make the elections partisan as part of the merger – but those same citizens will have no say in this.

But in addition to the election change, the bill also makes numerous changes to funding formulas and taxation, including funding for fire departments. And notably, it requires all committees and boards to have “political diversity.”
(Passed the House 70-20; in Senate Committee on Committees)

SB 157 – The Petland Bill

This bill allows for the retail sale of dogs and cats from “qualified breeders.” And there’s the catch: What is a qualified breeder? Is a puppy mill in another state a “qualified” breeder? In addition to opening the door to puppy mills, the bill throws out Louisville’s local ordinance banning such retail sales, passed last year. As a result, a company such as Petland could now open a store in Louisville. (Petland has been repeatedly accused of using puppy mills to obtain the dogs it sells.)
(Has had two readings in the Senate)

HB 18 – The Anti-Section 8 Bill

HB 18 is supposedly about the right of landlords to rent to whomever they wish, and not be forced to rent to Section 8 renters. Here’s the thing: there are no ordinances compelling landlords to rent to Section 8 renters. There is, however, an anti-housing-discrimination ordinance in Louisville – and this bill throws that ordinance out.
(Passed the House 74-20; passed the Senate 25-11)

HB 277 – The “All Your Public Defenders Are Belong To Us” Bill

This bill seems to make very little sense on first inspection. It up and moves all the public defenders out of their office in Louisville, and makes them instead part of the state’s public defender staff. Why do this? Why take them away from a local judicial system they are familiar with, and force them to work out of Frankfort? And mess with their pensions and such?

Here’s the detail you may not know: the public defenders in Louisville formed a union in 2022, by a vote of 32-5. They wanted to force management to do something about their overwhelming caseload. But management refused to negotiate with them. The impasse has continued to this day; but if they are moved to the state PD office, their union efforts go kaput. So, a better name for this bill would be the “Crush the PD Union Bill.”
(Has had second reading in the House)

HCR 81 – The “Study JCPS To Have an Excuse to Kill It” Resolution

This resolution forms a task force to “study” Jefferson County Public Schools, and then make recommendations about “restructuring” the system. Here’s a question: Is it a real study when your outcome is already decided? There is no doubt that Republicans in Frankfort want to split JCPS into multiple smaller districts. Some have said the impetus for this is racial: keep our white kids close to home and stop dealing with integration and busing. My own theory is that it is to diminish the political power of the teachers’ union. But as the meme says, why not both?

The Republican sponsors swear that they only want to “help” JCPS. I’m not sure how much import it has when someone you didn’t ask for help in the first place, declares that they are going to help you anyway. But first, they’re going to study you, so their pre-determined outcomes have the patina of objectivity.
(In the House Education Committee)


So, there you have it – the list of “War on Louisville” bills to date. There may be more coming, as the “mule bills” are beginning to stir. If there are, we’ll call them out as well.

And if any of the Republicans driving these bills throw up their hands and say in a shocked voice “Oh, no, these are not attacks on Louisville! Why would you think such a thing?” – just remember Rachel Maddow’s admonition: Watch what they do, not what they say.


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Bruce Maples

Bruce Maples has been involved in politics and activism since 2004, when he became active in the Kerry Kentucky movement. (Read the rest of his bio on the Bruce Maples Bio page in the bottom nav bar.)

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