by James Bruggers, Louisville Courier Journal –
In a partial win for Mayor Greg Fischer, a judge has declared largely unconstitutional a new state law that gave more than 80 small cities in Jefferson County veto power over solid waste and recycling policy.
Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip J. Shepherd in a Dec. 28 ruling upheld the General Assembly’s expanded make-up of Louisville’s solid waste board but struck down provisions that weakened that board’s authority.
The 2017 legislation only applied to Louisville and Jefferson County, something that the state constitution does now allow, the judge wrote while citing Kentucky Supreme Court precedence. The law also defeated the purpose of a 27-year-old state law that requires regional planning and management of solid waste, he wrote.
“The existence of dozens of municipal municipalities authorities to create their own solid waste policies defeats the entire purpose of centralized planning for solid waste disposal within each county,” according to Shepherd.
Shepherd also upheld part of the law. According to his ruling, a newly named waste board with membership now including representatives chosen by a waste hauler association and the Jefferson County League of Cities can remain. The suit had called that a violation of the separation of powers for the two non-government entities to be allowed to appoint members to the board when that authority belonged to Fischer, but the judge disagreed.
The lawsuit, filed last summer, was another twist in a conflict over solid waste management that began when Republicans on Louisville Metro Council objected to the waste district board’s decision in 2014 to ban plastic bags for yard waste such as grass clippings and leaves. The critics argued that the district’s action was an end-around elected officials.
Last year the Republican-controlled General Assembly, in one of its so-called War on Louisville bills, remade the solid waste board, giving veto power to the many small cities in Jefferson County over solid waste and recycling policies.
“Under this legislation, there could be 87 solid waste plans in effect in Jefferson County, and it is highly likely that those plans would ultimately” conflict with each other, the judge wrote.
Supporters of the new law had argued it restored some “home rule” balance in local solid waste policies.
James Bruggers: 502-582-4645; email@example.com; Twitter: @jbruggers; Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: www.courier-journal.com/jamesb.