Politics & Government

Beshear signs legislative redistricting bill; congressional plan in limbo

FRANKFORT — Central Lexington got a new state senator on Friday when Gov. Steve Beshear signed into law the controversial redistricting bill that moves the district of Democratic Sen. Kathy Stein out of Lexington to northeastern Kentucky.

The bill, which had an emergency clause, took effect immediately. Democratic state Sen. Dorsey Ridley of Henderson — 200 miles west of Lexington — now represents the core of Kentucky's second largest city.

The governor will have to wait to review a bill that redraws boundaries of Kentucky's six congressional districts.

The House and Senate adjourned Friday morning until Monday without approving a congressional redistricting bill. The lack of action means the Jan. 31 filing deadline for candidates for U.S. Congress might have to be extended.

Beshear said the decision to move Stein's 13th Senate District "goes beyond partisanship" and reflects "personal vindictiveness" by Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville.

Beshear said he signed the bill because the Jan. 31 deadline for candidates to file for the Kentucky General Assembly is looming.

"I am signing House Bill 1 today so that all citizens interested in filing for any of these seats will know what House or Senate district they are in and have time to get their filing papers in order to file for office," he said in a statement.

Beshear blasted Williams, accusing him of personally ordering Stein's district to be moved.

"The action directed by the Senate president to move Senator Kathy Stein's district in Lexington to northeast Kentucky in order to keep her from being able to run for re-election, and moving Western Kentucky Sen. Dorsey Ridley's district to Lexington, goes beyond partisanship. It reflects a personal vindictiveness that should have no place in this process."

Williams, who ran for governor against Beshear last fall, said in a statement that the Democratic governor should realize that the campaign ended in November.

"As with most legislative matters, he was not involved in the process and doesn't have any evidence to support his allegation," Williams said. "If the governor truly believed that HB 1 is such an egregious piece of legislation, he should have the courage of his convictions to veto the plan."

Stein, a lawyer who was first elected to the House in 1997 and to the Senate in 2009, said she is "quite pleased" that Beshear has acted on the redistricting bill.

"It's time to move on," she said, quickly adding that she plans to serve the remainder of her term, take a two-year leave of absence from the Senate and then run in Lexington's new 4th District in 2014.

For the remainder of this year, Stein will represent Mason, Lewis, Robertson, Fleming, Bath, Montgomery, Nicholas and Harrison counties.

Only odd-numbered Senate districts are up for election this year. Even-numbered districts will have elections in 2014.

Stein said she will work with Ridley the rest of this legislative session "to represent the area where I live."

Statewide, the Senate redistricting plan put 10 senators in districts with other incumbent lawmakers. New boundaries for the Democratic-controlled House put nine Republicans in the same districts.

Beshear said the situation with Stein "reinforces my belief that before redistricting occurs again in Kentucky, some type of non-partisan, citizen-based group should be created to participate in the process."

Congressional boundaries

Meanwhile, House Speaker Greg Stumbo said he thinks Monday would be the last day for the legislature to act on House Bill 2, the congressional redistricting bill, without changing the candidate filing deadline.

Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said the Jan. 31 filing deadline for legislative and state Supreme Court candidates should stay in effect since Beshear signed into law the legislative redistricting bill.

A conference committee made up of representatives from both chambers is "still far apart" in trying to reach a compromise on congressional redistricting, Stumbo said.

He declined to say what the sticking point is in reaching a resolution.

The conference committee did not meet Friday. Stumbo spokesman Brian Wilkerson said negotiations would resume Monday.

"We have offered a major compromise plan, and the Senate offered something not very different from before," Stumbo said.

Asked whether members of Congress were providing input into the negotiations, Stumbo said he spoke to U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, Thursday night, and the conversation "wasn't very good. He wasn't a happy camper."

Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said a compromise can be reached "if the House wants to be reasonable."

Senate State and Local Government Chairman Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said in a statement that Senate Republicans think the existing congressional districts should be changed "minimally."

"Any attempt on either side to gain new political advantage from the congressional redistricting process would be futile," he said.

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