Legislative leaders disagree on redistricting lawsuit legal fees

jbrammer@herald-leader.comJune 13, 2012 

FRANKFORT — Legislative leaders disagreed Wednesday on whether to use tax dollars to retain legal counsel for representation of the Kentucky General Assembly in a lawsuit over the redrawing of state legislative district boundaries.

A motion by Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, to pay the legal bill failed in Wednesday's regular meeting of the Legislative Research Commission because of lack of support from minority leaders in both the House and Senate. The House is controlled by Democrats; the Senate, by Republicans.

Williams' motion needed nine votes for approval from the 16-member panel. It got eight.

The Kentucky Supreme Court this year threw out new state House and Senate maps after ruling them unconstitutional.

The legislative maps in House Bill 1 were legally challenged by House Republicans and Democratic state Sen. Kathy Stein of Lexington, whose district was moved from inner Lexington to northeastern Kentucky in the new maps.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Williams hired Louisville attorney Sheryl Snyder to represent the Legislative Research Commission against the lawsuit.

Snyder was hired at the rate of $125 per hour. The LRC has not yet been billed by Snyder and has not paid him anything at this time.

Minority legislative leaders balked Wednesday at the hiring.

House Minority Whip Danny Ford, R-Mt. Vernon, said his opposition to the bill was not directed personally at Snyder.

"I guess he was only doing his job but we felt like it was an unconstitutional effort to begin with, and the LRC should not have taken the action to pay it," Ford said.

The House GOP will not use public funds to pay its attorneys in the lawsuit, said House Minority Caucus Chairman Bob DeWeese, R-Louisville.

Senate Minority Leader R.J. Palmer, D-Winchester, said Senate Democrats believe taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for legal representation in the suit.

Speaker Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said Snyder "may have to wait awhile" to get paid by the LRC.

"I think eventually he will get paid," he said.

Snyder said in an e-mail that he would not have a comment because he was out of town in a trial.

Asked his reaction to the vote in Wednesday's LRC meeting, Stumbo said, "Politics makes for interesting bedfellows."

Stumbo said he expects the General Assembly will tackle legislative redistricting again in the 2013 session that begins in January.

Williams' motion regarding attorney fees included numerous other business actions to be approved by the LRC. They will be held in abeyance until the LRC meets again to vote on them.

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