MADISON COUNTY —
FRANKFORT — It’s a uniquely political act to comply with a uniquely American constitutional requirement: redrawing legislative districts every 10 years to reflect population changes and ensure equal representation.
That doesn’t make it easy, as demonstrated Wednesday in the Kentucky House of Representatives, which voted along largely party lines – 53 to 46 – to approve a new plan that the minority Republicans declared unfair and based on manipulated census data.
That’s because Democrats didn’t count federal prisoners housed in Boyd, Clay, Fayette, Martin and McCreary counties – which is legal as Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, pointed out. But it’s not how those prisoners were counted last year when maps were drawn for congressional and judicial maps.
No Republican voted for the bill while one Democrat – Rep. Mike Denham of Maysville – voted against it because it removes Fleming County from his district and adds Lewis County.
After Stumbo said other states have drawn districts without counting federal prisoners, Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, said they did so through legislation prior to actually drawing the new maps.
“They didn’t do it behind closed doors,” Hoover said on the House floor. “They didn’t do it with just two or three members of majority leadership making that decision.”
Hoover also said Democrats should be consistent in the way they counted federal prisoners – either count them in all the maps or none.
Republicans offered several amendments, some to make minor adjustments in the plan and one to substitute their own plan. All were defeated.
The House plan pairs 13 incumbents against others – 12 of those are Republicans. The other is Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, against Republican Jill York of Grayson. It creates seven new districts where no incumbent lives and it splits 24 counties, the minimum number allowed by prior court rulings.
The ideal district size is 43,308 and no district varies more than 5 percent from that amount, according to Stumbo, another court requirement.
Rep. Joseph Fischer, R-Ft. Thomas, offered an alternative plan which was easily defeated with two Republicans – Tommy Turner of Somerset and C.B. Embry of Morgantown – voting against it and 19 other Republicans not voting at all.
Following a series of Republican speeches decrying the political nature of the Democratic plan, Stumbo responded by noting Fischer’s plan paired the same number of incumbents – but this time they were all Democrats.
“I wonder why that is?” asked Stumbo in mock amazement. He also accused Republicans of crying “crocodile tears.”
He said the court ruling last year, which threw out a previous plan by the Democratic-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate, “makes (redistricting) a more mathematical calculation,” but conceded it is inherently a political act.
But York took to the floor to say the numbers that really matter aren’t the census numbers.
“The numbers we worry about the most are 55-45: 55 Democrats to 45 Republicans,” she said, speaking of the current party alignment in the House.
But it wasn’t just Republicans complaining. Denham isn’t happy Fleming County was removed from his district and placed into the district represented by one of the Democratic leaders – Caucus Chair Sannie Overly of Paris.
Denham said he’d made a commitment to all the people in his district to “do everything I could” to keep the district intact.
“I have kicked like a mule,” Denham said, but to no avail. He was the sole Democrat to vote against the plan. No Republican voted for it.
Another unhappy Democrat voted for the bill – Rep. Kevin Sinnette of Ashland.
The plan removes much of Boyd County from his district in order to move it into Adkins 99th District. To compensate for that lost population, Sinnette’s new district includes part of Ashland and then travels a narrow corridor down U.S. 23 to pick up all of Lawrence County.
Adkins – who lives in Catlettsburg in Boyd County but maintains a post office box in his native Sandy Hook in Elliott County, which he lists in legislative records as his home – also picked up York’s Carter County, pitting the two of them against each other in the next election.
York said Tuesday when the plan was first revealed that she would run against Adkins if that was the only way she could try to continue representing “my people in Carter County.”
She is also unhappy that Lewis County was moved out of her district and into Denham’s. The heavily Republican county doesn’t make things any easier for Denham either, another reason he likely isn’t happy with the new map.
Among the incumbent Republicans placed in the same district were Rep. Marie Rader of McKee and first-term Republican Toby Herald of Beattyville. Mike Harmon of Danville and Jonathan Shell of Lancaster were also paired up.
The Democrats’ plan managed to pair three Republicans in the same district centering on Warren County: Jim DeCesare of Bowling Green, C.B. Embry of Morgantown, and Mike Meredith of Brownsville. Other Repubicanss paired together are Steve Rudy of Paducah and Richard Heath of Mayfield and Lynn Bechler of Marion and Ben Waide of Madisonville.
It also splits Laurel County four ways and Graves County three ways.
It creates seven new districts: 1 – Fulton, Hickman, Carlisle, Ballard and part of Graves; 19, in Warren County; 36, in Jefferson; 49, in Bullitt; 54, in Anderson, Shelby and part of Bullitt; 88, in Fayette; and 96 in Powell, Estill and part of Madison.
The ultimate fate of the bill remains uncertain because the Republican-controlled Senate has said it wants to wait until next year to take up redistricting. Typically, each chamber draws its own map (designed to benefit the majority’s incumbents) and the other chamber accepts it.
But Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, has questioned why the Senate would pass the Democratic House plan and then rely on the assurances of Stumbo that the House would then pass the Republican Senate plan next year.
Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.
53-46 vote goes mostly along party lines
MADISON COUNTY —
- Local News
EKU wins OVC tourney
The Eastern Kentucky University Colonels are OVC champions and are headed to the Big Dance.
Hot early shooting propelled EKU to a thrilling 79-73 win over defending champion Belmont Saturday in the championship game of the OVC Tournament.
The Colonels receive the OVC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The win gave EKU it's sixth OVC Conference Tournament title.
The Colonels hit four consecutive three pointers to open the game and led by as many as 15 points in the first half.
Corey Walden led all scorers in the game with 29 points, including 10-of-11 free throws. Glenn Cosey finished with 23 points on 5-of-8 shooting on three-pointers and Tarius Johnson added 15 points and five rebounds.
Veteran certification officer fired from EKU
Accusations of cheating on an online test led to the firing of an 18-year Eastern Kentucky University employee Wednesday.
Retha Sandlin, formerly a veteran certification officer in the Burnam House for EKU’s student veterans, said the decision resulted from a misunderstanding on the part of Jaime Roberts, the house’s interim office manager.
Proposed bill takes aim at heroin problem
Proposed legislation before the Kentucky General Assembly aims to combat the state’s growing heroin problem using three strategies – education, treatment and law enforcement aid.
Sen. Jared Carpenter, R-Berea, is one of the sponsors of Senate Bill 5. The bill was passed in the Senate earlier this year, 36-1, and is waiting to be heard by the House Judiciary Committee.
New kid at the market
A three-day old black-and-white goat named Ellsa was the star Saturday morning at the new Richmond Downtown Farmers Market.
The Nubian goat mix was brought to the weekly market by Four Sisters Farm. Located off Four Mile Road in Madison County, the farm specializes in goat products.
Hundreds turn out for fishing team’s fundraiser
Madison Central High School’s bass fishing team got a boost Saturday when its first-ever Fishing Tackle Swap turned out to be a huge success.
About 500 buyers showed up to check out what the 38 vendors had to offer. At least 17 of the vendors were from outside Madison County. There were even a few boats for sale.
Pets of the Week from the Madison County Animal Shelter
The Madison County Animal Shelter is located at 1386 Richmond Road in Berea. Shelter hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Animals available for adoption can be seen from noon to close Monday through Saturday.
Feds deny giving OK to selenium standards
When lawmakers wrestled last year with new standards for releasing selenium into streams by coal mines and industry, they were assured by state officials the proposals were based on sound science and approved by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials.
Eastern students practice fire fighting in burning building
Thick barrels of smoke rolled out of the room as nearby observers could feel the fire’s heat on their faces. Furniture and drywall fueled the blaze. Flames licked the top of the door frame and the flat ceiling.
Airport planning mock disaster drill
Madison Airport officials and Eastern Kentucky University are making plans for a mock disaster drill tentatively scheduled for August.
Prior 'bad acts' to be allowed in Marcum murder trial
A Madison Circuit judge ruled Friday that prior “bad acts” of murder defendant Christina Marcum may be admitted during her upcoming trial.
- More Local News Headlines
- EKU wins OVC tourney