Legislators may finally be ready to approve congressional redistricting

jbrammer@herald-leader.comFebruary 9, 2012 

FRANKFORT — After weeks of contentious negotiations, the state legislature is expected to produce a map Friday that redraws boundaries of Kentucky's six congressional districts.

Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said late Thursday there will be a vote Friday on a congressional redistricting map.

Stivers declined to say what the map will look like, "but we believe it will be a plan that will pass both chambers."

He said the Senate has made no changes yet in a map the House sent it earlier this week, but "there's always the possibility. Because of the sensitivity of the issue in discussions that will continue tonight and tomorrow, it probably will be premature to comment on what we have discussed with leaders of both houses."

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said earlier this week that the latest map proposal basically protects incumbents.

He said it leaves Owensboro in the 2nd Congressional District, Wayne and Pulaski counties in the 5th, and moves part of Boyd County from Northern Kentucky's 4th District to the 5th District.

Senate State and Local Government chairman Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said earlier this week that he could not vote for the tentative compromise that would move Garrard County from Central Kentucky's 6th Congressional District, represented by Democrat Ben Chandler of Woodford County, to the 2nd District, represented by Republican Brett Guthrie of Bowling Green.

Thayer wants to keep Garrard in the 6th District to help Andy Barr, a Lexington Republican who is seeking a rematch with Chandler this year. Barr narrowly lost to Chandler in 2010.

Some areas will have to leave the 6th District, which has grown in population since the 2000 census and has more residents than any of the state's five other districts.

Thayer was not available for comment late Thursday.

The Associated Press reported that Lexington attorney Scott White filed a lawsuit, asking a judge to draw new boundaries for Kentucky's six congressional districts, noting they have grown out of population balance over the last decade.

"The congressional districts are no longer constitutional under the 'one person, one vote' rule," White said. "We requested the court itself to redraw the congressional lines."

Stivers said lawmakers could argue that the lawsuit has been filed prematurely because they are in session until April and still have time to redraw congressional districts. White thinks that since the deadline has passed for congressional candidates to file for election, the lawsuit is timely.

White said the suit, filed for three Lexington residents, has been assigned to Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate.

Also Thursday, the Legislative Research Commission, made up of House and Senate leaders, decided to appeal Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd's ruling that Kentucky's newly drawn legislative districts are unconstitutional.

In a release, the LRC said it plans "to take the defense of the constitutionality of House Bill 1" directly to the Kentucky Supreme Court, bypassing the Court of Appeals.

It said it will ask the state's highest court to dissolve the injunction Shepherd issued and to order that legislative districts created this year under HB 1 and signed into law by Gov. Steve Beshear be used for 2012 elections.

Stumbo said the LRC will file the notice of appeal Friday and present legal briefs next week.

The fight over redistricting and the uncertainty legislators have of who might be their opponents in this year's elections has all but paralyzed the legislature with no passage yet of any major measures.

Thursday was the 25th day of this year's 60-day session, which must end by April 15.

Jack Brammer: (859) 231-1302. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog:bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com Janet Patton: (859) 231-3264. Twitter: @janetpattonhl

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