FRANKFORT — The state Senate and House remain at odds about when lawmakers should redraw boundaries for state legislative and congressional districts.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said Wednesday that a special session of the legislature should be held to tackle the task between the Nov. 8 general election and the start of the 2012 General Assembly on Jan. 3.
A special session would keep lawmakers focused on one issue and not bog down redistricting talks with other issues, Stumbo said.
But Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said the work should be done during the first part of the 2012 regular session, as it was after the 2000 U.S. Census.
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Stivers said there are too many holidays and events such as the inauguration of the governor in December to schedule a special session in the last weeks of the year. He also noted that a special session would cost taxpayers $60,000 a day.
If redistricting is done during the regular session, Stivers said, lawmakers could push to a later date the Jan. 31 filing deadline for 2012 candidates. Kentucky's six congressional seats, all 100 state House seats and half of the state Senate's 38 seats are up for election in 2012.
But, said Stumbo, "If we wait until the regular session, we'll have to push the filing deadline back a number of weeks, and that takes emphasis away from many vital issues important to Kentuckians. We need to get this out of the way so we can focus entirely on the state's needs."
The House has asked its regional caucuses to submit their redistricting proposals by Oct. 28, he said.
Only the governor may call a special legislative session and set its agenda.
Gov. Steve Beshear has said he would be open to a special session on redistricting if legislative leaders worked out an agreement beforehand that would assure a speedy conclusion.
Legislators are required every 10 years to redraw legislative and congressional district lines based on U.S. Census figures to make sure they are nearly identical in population.
The fixes are often contentious as lawmakers attempt to shift district lines in ways that favor their political parties.
In addition to legislative and congressional redistricting, Stumbo wants the legislature to redraw boundaries for the state's seven Supreme Court districts.
His staff said several of the high court's districts have populations that are out of line by as much as 19 percent. The state legislature did not redraw judicial boundaries 10 years ago.
Stivers said the legislature maybe should consider redrawing Supreme Court districts and possibly districts for circuit courts.
He noted that Floyd County, Stumbo's home county, has four circuit judges and each one's caseload of 300 is about 600 less than the state bar association's guidelines.
"We possibly could eliminate one or two judges in Floyd County or redistrict them where we could have greater need," Stivers said.
Stumbo's general counsel, Pierce Whites, said the Kentucky Constitution allows the General Assembly to remap only the Supreme Court districts; the Supreme Court, in turn, certifies district lines for circuit and district court judges.
Stivers said that he knew of no requirement for the legislature to redraw boundaries of circuit districts but that it should be sure there is adequate representation in them.