Timing Of Special Legislative Session Uncertain

Jun 2, 2013

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- The timing of a special legislative session in Kentucky remains uncertain, though Gov. Steve Beshear and top lawmakers have been tossing around potential dates.

Beshear wants lawmakers back in Frankfort to resolve the lingering issue of legislative redistricting, a politically divisive issue that tends to overshadow all other matters when it comes up for consideration every 10 years.

"I hope to deal with redistricting sometime before the next regular session in January so that it will not become a distraction when we're preparing the budget for the commonwealth for the next two years," Beshear said in a statement to The Associated Press. "I will continue to discuss this possibility with legislative leaders."

The goal is for lawmakers to have a tentative agreement before they return so that a redistricting bill could be ushered through the process quickly to avoid a protracted special session, which would cost taxpayers about $60,000 a day.

It takes at least five days for a bill to work through Kentucky's legislative process, which means taxpayers would foot at least a $300,000 bill.

Each decade, lawmakers are required to draw new legislative and congressional district boundaries to account for population changes recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau. Kentucky had major population shifts between 2000 and 2010, requiring major changes in boundary lines to comply with the federal and state "one person, one vote" mandate.

The Kentucky Supreme Court struck down lawmakers' initial redistricting plan last year, finding that the proposed districts weren't appropriately balanced.

The House approved a subsequent plan earlier this year, but the Republican-led Senate opted to wait until next year's legislative session to deal with the issue. Senate leaders said they wanted to pass both House and Senate redistricting at the same time, so neither got final passage.

Because the issue hasn't been resolved, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit earlier this month that calls for a three-judge panel to redraw legislative boundaries, claiming inaction by lawmakers has left them without adequate representation in the state Legislature. And in a separate case, a group of northern Kentucky residents filed a federal lawsuit in an attempt to force the Legislature to act. They claim rapid growth in northern Kentucky has left them without adequate representation in Frankfort.

House Republicans who would take a shellacking under a redistricting plan proposed by Democrats insist they want to avoid having federal judges redraw legislative boundaries.

The House's Democratic majority has a proposal ready that could force 11 House Republicans to run against each other next year.

Even so, state Rep. Ben Waide of Madisonville, one of the Republicans who would be forced to run against a GOP colleague to keep his seat under the House redistricting proposal, said the Legislature shouldn't relinquish its duty to redraw political boundaries to the court system, as the American Civil Liberties Union has called for.

House Republican Leader Jeff Hoover had suggested earlier this month that Kentucky residents "may be better off" if federal judges redraw legislative boundaries in a way that places people above politics.