Scott County supervisors objected Friday to a state proposal that would institute district-based county board elections, something that would change the decades-long practice in the Quad-Cities.
The House on Wednesday passed a bill requiring counties with more than 60,000 people to elect supervisors by district, instead of on an at-large basis. The bill won approval, 58-38. All of the Republicans in the Scott County delegation voted for it, while the Democrats in the delegation opposed it.
It's not clear what the bill's prospects are in the Senate. Sens. Roby Smith, R-Davenport, and Mark Lofgren, R-Muscatine, did not commit Friday, as they and other local legislators held their regular monthly meeting with county supervisors.
Scott County supervisors made clear their opposition, though.
Mostly, the supervisors said county residents, not the state, ought to decide how to choose their own supervisors. But there were also concerns electing supervisors by district would lead to parochialism.
"I don't want to be mandated by the state to divide our county, divide our people up. The way the system's worked, it has worked excellent in the 30-some years I have been here," said Ken Beck, a Republican supervisor from Bettendorf.
Several supervisors said they considered themselves representatives of all the people in the county, rather than specific areas.
Currently, the five-person board has two members from Davenport, one from Bettendorf and one each from Eldridge and Blue Grass. Supervisor Brinson Kinzer, a Democrat from Blue Grass, said, "I don't think it matters where they live."
The state code gives counties three options for electing county boards, with two involving electing supervisors by district and a third that provides for electing board members on a county-wide basis.
The bill also would require that the state Legislative Services Agency draw up county boundaries. The agency currently draws up congressional and legislative boundaries, but local government boundaries are generally left to them.
Rep. Gary Mohr, R-Bettendorf, defended the legislation Friday.
A former Bettendorf alderman, Mohr said that city councils are elected by district and so are some school boards. And he told about growing up near Council Bluffs, the largest city in Pottawattamie County, and how people living in the eastern part of the county couldn't get elected to the board.
"Scott County is different," Mohr said. But he added, "potentially, if the city of Davenport ever decides they want to control the board of supervisors, my district, House District 94, could not have anybody serving on the board."
It's not clear how the legislation originated, but state Rep. Ross Paustian, R-Walcott, said that he believes it grew out of dissatisfaction with how Polk County draws its district boundaries.
Polk, and Linn, counties both elect supervisors by district.
Paustian acknowledged voting for the bill, but he added he'd spoken with Smith to find out if it could be changed or killed. Paustian said that a bill dealing with county boards but not making the same requirements, had amended late in the process.
The House bill has been assigned to the Senate Local Government Committee, where Lofgren is vice chair. During discussion of the meeting, he told supervisors Friday he would watch for the bill, but did not say how he might vote.
Smith added, "we're going to take a look and it and see what happens out of Local Government."