Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

Breaking News

State News

February 9, 2012

It’s back to the drawing board for legislators

Judge’s ruling leads to uncertainty

GLASGOW — Confusion reigns in the wake of a judge’s ruling that state redistricting maps passed by the General Assembly are unconstitutional. That ruling said until the legislature offers a plan that meets constitutional muster, 2012 candidates for the legislature must run in the districts drawn 10 years ago.

Incumbent lawmakers asked each other, their leaders and even reporters in what district they will ultimately campaign. Potential challengers walk the hallways and ask the same questions. Candidates, both incumbents and challengers, who already have filed to run visit the Secretary of State’s Office to withdraw from a district they no longer reside in and file papers — and pay a $200 filing fee for the second time — for the district that now is in force after Judge Phillip Shepherd’s ruling.

Perhaps no one put it better than Sen. Robert Stivers, R-Manchester.

“It is what it is today, which is what it was 30 days ago,” said Stivers.

Another Republican Senator, Jimmy Higdon of Lebanon, rose to introduce guests to the Senate from Nelson County.

“I represent them,” Hidgon said — “at least this week.”

Lawmakers who had decided not to seek re-election in newly drawn, unfavorable districts suddenly find themselves back in the districts from which they previously won election. Sen. Walter Blevins, D-Morehead, who had said he wouldn’t seek re-election after the legislature passed a new district map now has filed to run in his old 27th District seat.

Paradoxically, Rep. Martha Jane King, D-Lewisburg (Logan County), has filed to run in the 27th Senate District. But that’s the “new” 27th, halfway across the state. And under Shepherd’s ruling and temporary injunction, that new district is no longer the law.

King said she’s not yet decided whether to remain in her House seat or run for the Senate. She’s waiting to see which district might be available.

“I intend to wait and see where things go for the next couple of days,” King said when asked which chamber she’d run for. “I am happy in my House seat and I’d be happy in the new Senate seat. Either one gives me a great opportunity to serve my counties.”

Rep. David Floyd, R-Bardstown, had filed to run for a newly drawn Senate District. After Shepherd’s ruling, he withdrew from that race and is re-filing for his old House seat.

“I am going to withdraw from the Senate race and re-file for the House – unless it changes again,” Floyd said ruefully.

And it could change.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said he will urge House Democrats to appeal Shepherd’s ruling. He said his first preference would be for the Kentucky Supreme Court to lift Shepherd’s injunction and declare House Bill 1 — the legislation which re-drew the maps — constitutional. If the court won’t do that, Stumbo said, he’d like to see it decide the case while permitting elections to proceed under the old district map.

Stivers, the Republican Floor Leader in the Senate, said Senate Republicans are considering whether to join the House in an appeal.

“It’s a possibility,” Stivers said. “No decision has been made.”

But Stivers said he’s heard from several lawmakers who want to address the antiquated Section 33 of the state constitution. That section prohibits splitting counties — but the federal mandate of equality among districts makes that impossible. In the 1990s, Kentucky’s Supreme Court tried to reconcile those differences by ruling the legislature must split the “fewest number of counties possible” while keeping districts within 5 percent of the ideal district population size. Those are the precedents and law on which Shepherd based his order.

Meanwhile all other business has stopped. Oh, some minor, non-controversial bills have passed one or the other chamber. But anything remotely controversial, especially big items like gambling, are stalled.

Gov. Steve Beshear said Wednesday it’s more prudent to wait on introducing a gambling amendment until the redistricting questions are answered.

“Obviously we don’t know yet where the re-districting issue is going,” Beshear said. “So I think probably in the next two to three days we will have a much better picture of what that road map looks like.”

He said “plenty of time” remains in the session to deal with issues like gambling after that.

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.

1
Text Only
State News