Op-Ed

Tired of political hypocrisy on local control

Harry L. Berry, Hardin County judge-executive
Harry L. Berry, Hardin County judge-executive

▪  Smoking policies

▪  Alcohol sales and consumption

▪  Local-option sales tax

▪  Right to work

What do these items have in common? In the view of many of our state legislators: apparently nothing.

Many of our elected representatives in Frankfort for years have lamented that decisions regarding policies on the sale and consumption of alcohol, as well as policies regulating smoking, should be left to the local community to decide.

They often argue local communities, along with their local elected leaders, can best determine what is right regarding these topics. They believe it is not wise to implement statewide policies regulating the use of these products.

Yet, when it comes to local tax policies, these same representatives suddenly believe local communities cannot be trusted to make their own choices. They feel Frankfort should determine our local projects and how to pay for them.

It seems they think Frankfort knows best when it comes to improving our quality of place and economic development.

Recently, in a case involving Hardin County, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled right-to-work requirements can be determined and implemented by local governments. This decision essentially recognizes county governments’ ability to exercise local control on key employment issues.

County governments waited on Frankfort for decades to take action on right-to-work legislation. Frankfort failed to act. So local governments took it upon themselves to exert control over the issue.

As a result, Hardin County was the jurisdiction challenged in federal court. And two years later, Hardin County prevailed in the federal courts with a landmark decision allowing all county governments the ability to enact their own right-to-work law at the local level.

So, now that counties across the nation are free to determine their right-to-work status for themselves, does it still make sense for the commonwealth to make the decision statewide?

Or should they leave that decision to the local community, just as they choose to do regarding smoking policies and alcohol sales issues? After all, some counties may still believe it is in their best interest not to become a right-to-work community.

And where does this leave our Frankfort representatives in their thinking regarding local taxes?

So, I’m still confused. Which issues can we be trusted to decide for ourselves in our local communities, and which do we need the wisdom of Frankfort to decide?

But then I’m reminded of how you tell the difference; it depends on how those decisions will impact their next election campaign. If the decision will potentially be unpopular, leave it to the locals. If the decision will garner praise and support in the next election cycle, …

“The government closest to the people serves the people best.” — Thomas Jefferson.

Harry L. Berry is Hardin County judge/executive.

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