Kentucky House passes redistricting plan; final approval unlikely in this session

jbrammer@herald-leader.comMarch 6, 2013 

FRANKFORT — Over strong protests from Republicans and one Democrat, the state House approved new boundaries Wednesday night for Kentucky's House districts.

During more than 90 minutes of debate on House Bill 2, Republicans accused Democrats of unfair backroom deals, and Democrats said GOP members were shedding "crocodile tears" because they would be more than willing to harm Democrats if they were in the majority.

Democrats outnumber Republicans in the state House, 55 to 45.

The measure now goes to the Senate, where Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, has said he is not inclined to consider it in the remaining days of this year's legislative session. Wednesday was the 25th day of the 30-day session.

Stivers also has said that the Senate will not present a Senate redistricting plan this session but will tackle the issue next year. There are no elections in the state this year.

The House approved the House redistricting bill 53-46. All those voting for it were Democrats. The House's 45 Republicans voted against the bill, along with Rep. Mike Denham, D-Maysville. Denham was upset that the plan removed Fleming County from his 70th District and replaced it with Lewis County.

Rep. John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, did not get to vote because he was absent because of illness.

The House redistricting plan pits incumbents against each other in six districts and creates seven districts with no incumbent, including one in Fayette County.

All but one of the incumbents who would have to face each other are Republicans. House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, would face Rep. Jill York, R-Grayson, in the 99th District.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said the House plan meets all federal and state mandates. He said the Supreme Court decision that disqualified last year's House plan made this year's plan "more a mathematical calculation."

Some Republican members hooted when Stumbo said House Democratic leaders prepared it with "a pure heart" without trying to be "punitive."

Stumbo said the plan did not count for its population data the number of federal prisoners in the state, a move that some Republicans criticized. Redistricting is done every 10 years to reflect population changes in the U.S. Census.

House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, said it was inconsistent for the House to draw congressional and judicial district boundaries last year that counted federal prisoners, but to leave federal prisoners out this year.

Stumbo said several states are ignoring federal prisoners when they consider population figures for redistricting. Hoover countered that states that do not count federal prisoners in redistricting previously had passed legislation to do so, but Kentucky has not.

The House turned back four amendments offered by Republicans to change the redistricting plan.

The voice of Rep. Diane St. Onge, R-Lakeland Park in Kenton County, trembled when she called the House plan "a terrible thing."

Rep. John "Bam" Carney, R-Campbellsville, said the House plan was "a sham" and that passage of it would make it difficult for him to teach students about the Kentucky Constitution.

Rep. Joe Fischer, R-Ft. Thomas, offered an amendment that would favor Republicans.

Stumbo said that Fischer's amendment followed the same premise and principles of law as his plan and would pit the same number of incumbents against each other — except, Stumbo said, the incumbents would be Democrats.

Stumbo harshly criticized Republicans who said his plan was political but who voted for Fischer's, saying they were crying "crocodile tears."

"Methinks they protest too much," he said. Fischer's amendment failed, 55-24.

Rep. Tim Moore, R-Elizabethtown, said this year's General Assembly started with "high hopes of getting along" but has become mired in "constant partisanship."

He presented an amendment that would set up a bipartisan commission to come up with a redistricting plan "fair to all," but it failed on a vote of 43 in favor and 53 against.

Jack Brammer: (859) 231-1302. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: Bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com.

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