Politics & Government

Panel approves state House redistricting plan over Republican protests

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg

FRANKFORT — Over protests from Republicans, a state House committee approved a bill Wednesday to redraw boundaries of the 100 state House districts.

A curved sliver of southern Lexington will gain a new state representative under the House redistricting plan, giving Fayette County five whole districts and parts of seven others.

The plan, prepared by House Democratic leadership, puts nine incumbents across the state in districts with other incumbent representatives. Of those, eight are Republicans and one is a Democrat.

House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, and Rep. Jill York, R-Grayson, would both be in the 99th House District.

Republicans in the same districts would be Myron Dossett of Pembroke and Ben Waide of Madisonville in the 9th; C.B. Embry Jr. of Morgantown, Jim DeCesare of Rockfield and Michael Meredith of Brownsville in the 17th; and Mike Harmon of Danville and Kim King of Harrodsburg in the 54th.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a Prestonsburg Democrat who presented the plan in House Bill 1 to the committee, could not recall a redistricting plan that ever put three incumbents in the same district.

The House plan also dramatically changes several districts now held by Republicans.

Under the plan, Rep. Marie Rader of McKee would see her 89th District stretch from Jackson County to the Kentucky-Tennessee border in McCreary.

Rep. Lonnie Napier, R-Lancaster, said Rader would need an airplane to get around in her district. Napier would lose a part of Madison County, which he has represented 28 years.

Napier said his home county of Garrard and Madison are compatible and that Madison County residents are upset that their county is being split into four districts. It now has three.

Stumbo said Madison County was "a good example" of what happens in redistricting when a county gains population.

House Minority Whip Danny Ford, R-Mount Vernon, would see his compact 80th District of Lincoln, Rockcastle and part of Pulaski counties change to Rockcastle, Casey and parts of Pulaski and Madison counties.

Ford tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill in committee, but chairman Mike Cherry, D-Princeton, called his move out of order because Ford had not given him 24-hour notice of an amendment.

Ford said Rep. Joe Fischer, R-Thomas, might file a similar amendment to be considered when the full House votes on the plan. Fischer has legally challenged past redistricting plans.

House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, would lose Clinton County, the home of his birth, under the House plan.

Hoover called Democrats "political cowards" for presenting the plan and said it could hurt the working relationship between Democrats and Republicans on other issues during this year's legislative session.

The new map is "good for Fayette County in that it will pick up a new district entirely inside its borders," said Rep. Bob Damron, a Nicholasville Democrat whose 39th District includes part of Lexington.

Fayette County would gain the 96th District now held by York.

The new maps would take effect immediately upon approval of the legislature and the governor's signature.

Stumbo said the bill meets legal requirements by not infringing on minority voting rights and keeping districts within 5 percent of the current ideal population — a little more than 43,000 — for each of the 100 House seats.

He noted that 22 counties — one more than in the redistricting plan adopted in 2002 — have to be split because their populations are too large to contain a single district.

The new House plan also splits six smaller counties, the same number as the current map, he said. They are Harlan, Letcher, Lewis, Lawrence, Mercer and Trigg counties.

Population gain in the state favored the "Golden Triangle" that encompasses Louisville, Lexington and Northern Kentucky, and regions along the interstates at the expense of Eastern and Western Kentucky, Stumbo said.

The full House is expected to vote on the bill Thursday.

HB 1 also contains revised maps for the Kentucky Supreme Court and Court of Appeals but does not recommend any changes to state Senate districts.

If precedent is followed, Stumbo said, both chambers would approve their counterpart's plan with no changes.

Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, said the Senate would go along with that agreement but quickly added that the Republican-led Senate would not put three Senate Democratic incumbents in the same district.

The Senate is expected to present its plan to redraw the 38 Senate district plans next week, Williams said.

It also has not presented its congressional redistricting plan. The House has approved its plan to redraw Kentucky's six congressional districts.

The state legislature is required to redraw political district boundaries every 10 years to reflect population changes in the U.S. Census.

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