Gov. Beshear Urges Lawmakers To Wait On Redistricting

Jan 9, 2013

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Hoping to head off a time-consuming debate, Gov. Steve Beshear urged lawmakers on Wednesday to wait until later this year to consider legislation to redraw legislative districts.

The second-term Democrat sent a letter to Senate President Robert Stivers and House Speaker Greg Stumbo asking them to hold off on the politically divisive issue so that more time can be devoted to reforming the state's pension program for government retirees and for reforming the state's tax code.

That letter raised the specter of a special legislative session to deal with redistricting.

"I am committed to working with you to make sure it is completed in ample time for the 2014 elections," Beshear said in the letter.

Stivers, R-Manchester, has already said he's amenable to that because the next round of elections isn't until 2014. Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, has said he wants to get new lines drawn around districts during the current legislative session.

The last legislative redistricting effort ended in political turmoil that made its way to the state Supreme Court. Justices concluded the new legislative districts were not balanced by population and had to be redrawn to comply with the "one person, one vote" mandate in federal and state law.

The process took up most of last year's regular legislative session.

Redistricting is supposed to occur every 10 years to account for population changes found by the U.S. Census Bureau. Kentucky's overall population grew from 4 million to 4.3 million, requiring a major reconfiguration of legislative districts to make them nearly the same size.

Beshear said he wants lawmakers to concentrate on finding a way to resolve a $33 billion unfunded liability in Kentucky's pension system for retired government workers and on passing a package of tax reforms.

Last year, the Pew Center on the States recommended issuing bonds to restore solvency to the pension plan. A legislative task force studying the pension crisis rejected the recommendation while at the same time calling for full funding for all the state's retirement plans.

A separate group of experts appointed by Beshear to review the state's tax code proposed a model late last year that would generate about $690 million a year in additional revenue. He said he he's hopeful lawmakers can pass a package of reforms this year, even if it's during a special session later in the year.