INDIANAPOLIS -- A proposal to reorganize county government across the state passed a key Senate committee Wednesday, but not before Lake County was exempted from the sweeping reform package.

Senate Bill 506 orders boards of commissioners in 90 of Indiana's 92 counties -- including Porter County -- to hold a hearing this fall.

At the hearing, each three-person body must vote to either replace itself with a single, elected county executive officer or replace itself and the county's council with a seven-member board of supervisors.

The commissioners can opt to do nothing, but under SB 506 that would trigger an automatic 2010 ballot referendum to allow county voters to decide whether an executive or a board of supervisors is preferable.

But in two Indiana counties -- Lake and Marion -- none of these mandates will be triggered.

Marion County, home of Indianapolis, had been exempted from the outset in versions of SB 506.

During debate Wednesday in the Senate Local Government Committee, Sen. Sue Landske, R-Cedar Lake, offered an amendment to pull Lake County out of the bill as well.

Landske argued the county's population of more than 492,000 people makes it unique.

"Lake County is unique in a lot of respects," Landske said. "It has a very diverse population, and faces a lot of challenges."

Landske also pointed out Lake County is unique in that the County Council has legislative responsibilities, a power held by the Board of Commissioners in every other county except Marion and St. Joseph.

"I ask the committee to give us a little more time to develop a more deliberate response in Lake County," Landske said.

Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, argued his constituents in Madison County would like an opportunity for a similar exemption.

"I think all of us think our counties are unique," Lanane said.

But Committee chairwoman Sen. Connie Lawson, a Hendricks County Republican, said Lake County's diversity and size makes it singular.

"They're very worried about their representation" in Lake County, Lawson said, bringing the debate to an end.

The amended bill passed by a 6-5 vote. Sen. Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, joined Landske in voting for it.

It will next head to the full Senate for consideration.

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