'Smooth' path to redistricting bill may lead to Beshear signing Friday

FRANKFORT — Lawmakers are expected to conclude a special session on Friday after final votes in the Senate and House on a legislative redistricting bill that appears to be steamrolling into law.

Gov. Steve Beshear is poised to sign the measure into law on Friday, as soon as lawmakers wrap up work on what had been a lingering issue in Kentucky, his spokeswoman, Kerri Richardson, said.

Beshear had called lawmakers into special session on Monday to redraw boundaries around legislative districts. He urged them to complete their work as quickly as possible because of the $60,000-a-day cost of a special session.

Under Kentucky's legislative process, it takes at least five days to get a bill to final passage, and lawmakers are expected to manage that.

"That's about as smooth as it gets," said state Rep. Brent Yonts, D-Greenville, chairman of the House State Government Committee, which has oversight of the redistricting process.

Redistricting is undertaken every 10 years to account for population changes recorded by the Census Bureau.

Kentucky had major population shifts between 2000 and 2010, requiring reconfiguration of legislative districts in both the House and Senate to comply with the federal and state "one person, one vote" mandate. The state's overall population rose from 4 million to 4.3 million while shifting largely from rural communities to urban areas.

The Senate State and Local Government Committee modified the legislation on Thursday, adding new Senate district boundaries to the measure that up until then addressed only House districts. That modification requires that the bill be returned to the House for final passage after the Senate's expected approval on Friday.

The Senate is scheduled to vote shortly after 9 a.m. The House is then expected to take final action shortly after 10 a.m.

The latest redistricting proposal is a stark contrast to a measure passed last year only to be struck down as unconstitutional by the Kentucky Supreme Court. The House plan would have essentially forced some Republicans out of the Legislature. The Senate's plan would have done the same to Democrats. The partisan bickering that resulted from those efforts led to lawsuits that slowed Kentucky's enactment of new boundary lines.

With a three-judge panel watching over their shoulders, the Democratic-led House and Republican-controlled Senate removed many of the partisan overtones this time around. Those judges are poised to step in if lawmakers don't resolve the matter.

The latest measure would redraw House boundaries in a way that would put four Democrats and four Republicans in the same districts. The Senate proposal would pit no incumbents against each other.

While the proposal has broad bipartisan support, not everyone is happy.

Republican Reps. Myron Dossett of Pembroke and Ben Waide of Madisonville would share District 9, setting up a potential primary election battle. Republican Reps. C.B. Embry and Jim DeCesare would both be in District 17.

In northeastern Kentucky, Democratic Rep. Kevin Sinnette would potentially be pitted against powerful Democratic House Floor Leader Rocky Adkins in District 100. And two veteran Democratic lawmakers, Reps. Hubert Collins of Wittensville and John Will Stacy of West Liberty, would share District 97.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader