The Richmond Register

Local News

January 21, 2012

Beshear signs redistricting law

Despite controversy

Frankfort — FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear on Friday signed into law controversial plans to re-draw state legislative districts while complaining of the partisan motivations of the Republican Senate but without comment on Democratic House lines.

The plans were devised by the majority leadership in both chambers — Democrats in the House and Republicans in the Senate — pitting incumbents of the other party against each other and in one Senate district making the incumbent, Kathy Stein of Lexington, ineligible to run for re-election this year. The House plan combines three Republicans into one district, combines nine altogether and sets up a potential primary for Republican Leader Jeff Hoover.

“Redistricting is always a partisan process, and the current situation is no exception,” Beshear said in a statement released after he signed the bill. “However, the action directed by the Senate President (David Williams) to move Sen. 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.”

But, it wasn’t enough to convince Beshear to veto the bill.

“However, the deadline for Kentuckians to file for these House and Senate seats is Jan. 31, only 11 days away,” Beshear said. “Therefore, 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.”

Williams didn’t address the move of Stein’s and Ridley’s districts, accusing Beshear of “casting aspersions” and lacking the courage to veto the plan.

“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,” Williams said in his statement. “As usual, though, he prefers to cast aspersions instead of taking responsibility for his own actions or inactions and thereby continue to make Frankfort more partisan than it already is.”

Given the anger and outrage of minority members in both chambers, it might be hard to find a more partisan place than Frankfort already. At least that seemed to be the mood at a table in the Capitol Annex cafeteria where five Republican House members gathered for lunch.

“I think both chambers are equally guilty of partisanship,” said Rep. John Carney, R-Campbellsville. “I think the losers here are the people of Kentucky.”

He and Rep. Sara Beth Gregory, R-Monticello, think a less partisan process is needed. Carney noted that 12 states use independent, non-partisan commissions to draw legislative lines and he wants Kentucky to at least look at that approach to see how it works.

Gregory said she had read stories indicating some of those commissions have had problems so she wasn’t sure that’s necessarily the answer.

“I would support more transparency,” Gregory said. “The plans need to be publicly available for a couple of days before they vote so people can know what’s happening.”

Beshear’s statement also called for “some type of non-partisan, citizen-based group (to) be created to participate in the process” prior to the next re-districting after the 2020 U.S. Census.

Meanwhile, although state districts are now law, the leaders of the two parties have yet to agree on a congressional map. House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Friday morning the two sides were still “far apart.” He said the Democrats had offered substantial changes to their original map but the Senate Republicans responded with basically their original map. He wouldn’t share any specifics.

Stumbo proposed continuing negotiations Friday with hopes of an agreement on which both chambers might then vote Monday, the last day in his opinion the vote could be taken with moving back the congressional filing deadline.

But Williams released a statement midday which said since the House adjourned there would be no agreement Friday and the deadline can be extended  — presumably without affecting the Jan. 31 deadline for state lawmakers.

“Our position has always been that the current congressional districts should be changed minimally to constitutionally conform to population shifts so that most Kentuckians will be able to benefit from the same representation and maintain electoral accountability,” said Williams. “Any attempt on either side to gain new political advantage from the congressional redistricting would be futile.”

Stumbo wants to realign the First District by moving Daviess County from the Second and then moving counties east of the Second District but now in the First to the Second. He also wants to move some northeastern Kentucky counties like Boyd, Carter, Elliott and Greenup to the Fifth from the Fourth to more closely resemble Kentucky’s old Seventh District when the state had more population relative to other states.

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com.

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