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Ky. lawmakers return to Frankfort for redistricting

Aug. 19, 2013 @ 01:35 PM

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Lawmakers began arriving at the Capitol on Monday morning for the start of a special legislative session to redraw boundaries around House and Senate districts.

Pressed to get the work done quickly because of pending lawsuits, legislative leaders will push to complete the task by Friday.

Unlike recent efforts to deal with the often divisive issue, both the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democratic-led House have unveiled proposals that all sides are generally happy with.

“It’s very warm and fuzzy,” said state Rep. Brent Yonts, D-Greenville. He is chairman of the House State Government Committee, which will hold hearings on the legislation in coming days. “The House plan pits the same number of Democrats and Republicans against each other, which brings fairness to it. I think this will pass the House with very strong support, and, from what I’m hearing, there’s very strong support in the Senate for their proposal.”

Redistricting is undertaken every 10 years to account for population changes recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau. Kentucky had major population shifts between 2000 and 2010, requiring reconfiguration of legislative districts in both the House and Senate. The overall population rose from 4 million to 4.3 million. But that growth tended to be in urban areas, while rural communities declined.

With federal judges watching over their shoulders, Kentucky lawmakers put together redistricting proposals absent any overt attempts at political one-upmanship.

Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo unveiled a House proposal last week that would redraw legislative boundaries in a way that would put four Democrats and four Republicans in the same districts. The Senate proposal, also released last week, would pit no incumbents against each other.

Because Kentucky lawmakers have been slow in redrawing legislative boundaries, voters filed two separate federal lawsuits earlier this year to speed up the process. As a result, a three-judge panel is closely watching the Legislature’s efforts and is poised to step in if lawmakers fail to resolve the matter in the special session.

The latest proposals out of the House and Senate are stark contrasts to the divisive measures passed last year only to be struck down as unconstitutional by the Kentucky Supreme Court. The plan adopted by the Democratic-controlled House last year would have essentially forced some Republicans out of the Legislature. The Republican-led Senate’s plan would have done the same to Democrats.

The Kentucky high court struck down lawmakers’ initial redistricting plan last year, finding that the proposed districts weren’t balanced by population and didn’t comply with the federal and state “one person, one vote” mandate. When lawmakers didn’t rework and pass a plan earlier this year, Gov. Steve Beshear called them back for the special session.

In the latest House proposal, Republican Reps. Myron Dossett of Pembroke and Ben Waide of Madisonville would share District 9, setting up a potential primary election battle. Republican Reps. C.B. Embry and Jim DeCesare would both be in District 17.

In northeastern Kentucky, Democratic Rep. Kevin Sinnette would potentially be pitted against powerful Democratic House Floor Leader Rocky Adkins in District 100. And two veteran Democratic lawmakers, Reps. Hubert Collins of Wittensville and John Will Stacy of West Liberty, would share District 97.
 

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