Politics & Government

Negotiations stall over redrawing Kentucky's congressional districts

FRANKFORT — Negotiations between the state House and Senate have stalled over the redrawing of Kentucky's six congressional districts.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Monday that a federal judge could end up redrawing lines for the state's congression al districts if lawmakers fail to reach a compromise. The Prestonsburg Democrat didn't seem troubled by that prospect in a state where Republicans hold four of the state's six congressional seats.

"From a purely political perspective, I would think that the Democrats would likely fare better in a court challenge than Republicans," Stumbo said. "They have more to lose."

Sen. Damon Thayer, the Georgetown Republican leading negotiations for the GOP, said allowing the issue to go to court would be a gamble for Democrats.

"There's no way you could speculate it would be better for Democrats or Republicans," he said.

Meanwhile, Stumbo said the House was waiting for the Senate to make a move.

Stumbo said the Democratic-controlled House was willing to make a major concession that would affect two congressional districts now held by Republicans. They expected the Senate to return with a counterproposal that would affect two congression al districts held by Democrats. That type of concession never materialized, Stumbo said.

"We are waiting for a legitimate counterproposal from the Senate," he said.

Representatives from both chambers did not meet during the weekend or Monday, Thayer said.

Thayer said he had no idea when the two sides might meet again, making it likely that the Jan. 31 deadline for congressional candidates to file for this year's election will have to be pushed back.

"I'd say quite likely that the General Assembly is going to be required to move the filing deadline for congressional districts," Thayer said.

If the legislature does not push back the deadline, congressional candidates who already have filed to run in the existing districts probably will take the issue to court, Stumbo said.

In the meantime, Thayer said, the slow work on congressional redistricting probably would mean a delay in considering expanded gambling.

"My time and energies are taken up right now with this congressional redistricting bill," he said.

Rep. Mike Cherry, a Prince ton Democrat who is chairman of the House State Government Committee, filed two bills Monday that would push back the filing deadline if the two sides can't come to an agreement within the next few days. House Bill 302 would delay the filing deadline until Feb. 7. House Bill 303 would move the deadline to Feb. 14.

Meanwhile, House Republicans are considering legal action over the redistricting plan for state House and Senate seats that was signed by Gov. Steve Beshear on Friday.

That plan pits three incumbent Republicans against each other in the same Western Kentucky district. It also moves Rep. Jill York, a Republican from Grayson, into a newly created Democratic-leaning House district in Fayette County.

Outrage in the Capitol and elsewhere over the House and Senate redistricting plans has prompted many to rethink the way the House and Senate redraw legislative lines.

Democratic Sen. Kathy Stein's Senate district was moved from Fayette County to northeastern Kentucky. A large portion of Fayette County is now represented by Sen. Dorsey Ridley, a Henderson Democrat whose district was moved to Lexington. Many of Stein's former constituents protested the move at a rally Sunday. Another rally is planned for 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Capitol.

Rep. Bill Farmer, R-Lexington, filed a bill Monday that would appoint an independent commission to redraw legislative and congressional lines every 10 years. The state's seven Supreme Court justices would appoint one person to serve on the commission from each of the regions the justices represent.

Farmer said the Supreme Court justices are the state's moral authority.

"You have to have someone who is fair and neutral to do the appointing," he said.

Farmer said people in Lexington — including Republicans — are outraged that Stein's district was moved.