Topeka It would be made easier for local governments to start the process of consolidation under a bill gaining first-round approval Tuesday in the Senate.
Most of the debate was on the how much of a vote would be needed for cities and counties to merge. Senators agreed, 22-17, that it would take 60 percent of the total city-county vote.
A final vote of approval is needed by the chamber to send the bill to the House.
The bill would require a dual majority for consolidation of counties, meaning a majority in each county would have to approve the merger for it to pass.
Sen. Pete Brungardt, R-Salina, said the bill removes legal barriers to permit discussions and eventually a vote on merging. While most of the debate was on cities and counties, he said the bill also would apply to any taxing district except school boards.
The requirement for a 60 percent vote was proposed by Sen. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, who said, "Cities and counties aren't on equal footing." That came after the Senate rejected a two-thirds majority on a 19-19 vote.
"Legislators live in fear of local governments making up their own minds," Brungardt said afterward.
Among those opposing the change was Sen. Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson.
"We should let the locals decide what's in their best interest," he said.