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Redistricting: Round 2

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Legislature opened special session Monday

By Stephen Lega

The Kentucky legislature returned to Frankfort Monday to make another attempt at redefining its districts.
The issue has lingered over the legislature since 2012, when the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that the plans approved during that year’s General Assembly were unconstitutional.
Leading up to the special session that started Monday, legislative leaders from both parties presented redistricting proposals.
House minority leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, unveiled a Republican proposal Aug. 8. Under that plan, eight incumbent legislators would be facing one another.
Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonburg, unveiled the Democratic plan Friday. Like the Republican plan, the Democratic proposal would also create match-ups between eight sitting state representatives.
The 24th District, which includes Marion County, looks the same under both proposals. Either way, State Rep. Terry Mills, D-Lebanon, would not have to run against another incumbent legislator.
The current 24th District includes Casey and Marion counties and a portion of Pulaski County. Under both proposals, the 24th District would change to Marion, LaRue and Green counties.
“I don’t want to say anything for sure, but it looks like with the Democratic or Republican plans, the district will go to those counties,” Mills said.
Democrats hold a 55-45 majority in the House of Representatives, which means the Democratic plan is the most likely to be approved by that body, according to Mills.
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, last week announced the Republican proposal for the 38 Senate districts. Under this proposal, no incumbent Senators will have to run against each other, although the shape of several districts will change.
State Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, said Stivers included Democrats in the planning.
“It’s a fair map for everybody involved,” Higdon said.
In fact, Senate Minority Leader, R.J. Palmer, D-Winchester, was quoted by the Lexington Herald-Leader as saying the proposal was “very fair.”
Under this proposal, Marion County would remain part of the 14th Senate District, but the District itself will look different.
The current 14th District includes Marion, Nelson, Washington, Mercer and Taylor counties. Under the proposed plan, the 14th District would include Casey, Marion, Nelson and Spencer counties and a portion of Jefferson County.
The special session costs $60,000 per day, and by law it is required to last at least five days.
Mills, for one, expects the session to conclude by the end of the week.
“If we don’t get it done by Friday, I’ll be extremely disappointed, along with a lot of other people,” he said.
While redistricting is the only issue that can be addressed by the legislature as part of the special session, it won’t be the only thing legislators will be doing this week. Mills said that Stumbo and Stivers agreed to reschedule committee meetings for this week in an effort to reduce the cost to the state’s taxpayers.
“I thought that was a good idea,” Mills said.
The legislature’s delay has also affected local redistricting. Marion County officials have approved new precinct and magisterial districts, but the state has delayed signing off on those changes until the new legislative districts are finalized.

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How they got here
The General Assembly approved redistricting plans in January 2012, but the minority party in each house of the legislature filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of those plans.
The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that neither the House nor the Senate plans approved in 2012 met the requirements of the Kentucky Constitution. As a result, the current legislative districts remain in effect until a new plan is approved.
The House of Representatives approved a plan during the 2013 regular session, but the Senate postponed the redistricting issue.
A group of Northern Kentucky residents in April filed a federal lawsuit seeking to force the legislature to complete redistricting before November.
Shortly thereafter, Gov. Steve Beshear announced he would likely call a special session for the sole purpose of redistricting. That session is now underway.

Editor’s note: Visit www.lebanonenterprise.com to view statewide maps showing the Democratic and Republican House proposals and the Republican Senate proposal.