Gov. OK's districts despite heated criticism

By Kevin Wheatley Published:

New state House and Senate districts have been signed into law by Gov. Steve Beshear Friday despite his concerns that “a personal vindictiveness” forced a liberal senator from the chamber for at least two years.

The updated legislative districts have drawn heated, sometimes passionate criticism from members of minority parties in both chambers – Republicans in the House and Democrats in the Senate. Both plans pit minority party incumbents against each other in some redrawn districts.

However, Beshear singled out part of the Senate plan that moves Sen. Kathy Stein’s 13th district from downtown Lexington to a new district in northeastern Kentucky about 100 miles away as “beyond partisan.”

“It reflects a personal vindictiveness that should have no place in this process,” Beshear said Friday in a statement, referring to Senate President David Williams, his Republican opponent in the fall gubernatorial election.

Sen. Dorsey Ridley, D-Henderson, will represent downtown Lexington in 2013 and 2014 after his 4th district shifted about 200 miles east. Stein’s 13th district now borders the Ohio River and covers Harrison, Montgomery, Fleming and five other counties.

Williams disputed Beshear’s claim that he directed moving Stein’s district and said the governor “should realize that the campaign ended last November.”

“If the governor truly believed that HB1 is such an egregious piece of legislation, he should have the courage of his convictions to veto the plan,” Williams said in a statement.

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

Sen. Damon Thayer, a Georgetown Republican and chair of the Senate state and local government committee, again defended moving Stein’s district, saying all open districts were assigned odd numbers because those seats will be on the ballot in November.

“…District 13 was moved to the open seat in northeastern Kentucky to ensure that the people of that district would not be left unrepresented until after the 2014 election,” he said in a statement.

“… This was a responsible decision, not one based on personality.”

Beshear said he signed House Bill 1 with the upcoming Jan. 31 filing deadline for candidates in mind, but he said a non-partisan, citizen-based group should participate in future redistricting plans.

The new maps shift districts for Franklin County’s legislators. Rep, Derrick Graham picked up precincts in Peaks Mill and Swallowfield from Rep. Carl Rollins, and Sen. Julian Carroll will represent Owen County and 26 fewer precincts in Fayette County.

It’s unclear whether the legislative redistricting plans will be challenged in court. For now, though, the House and Senate must remap Kentucky’s six congressional districts.

Senate Republicans are pushing a proposal that leaves the congressional districts in roughly the same geographic areas. House Democrats want to reshape the largely rural 1st District in western Kentucky and 5th District in eastern Kentucky, both of which lost population over the past decade.

Both chambers adjourned Friday without a compromise. Conference committees from both chambers plan to resume talks Monday.

“At this time, we’re fairly far apart on the two proposals,” House Speaker Greg Stumbo told reporters.

House Democrats offered a compromise that was rejected by Senate Republicans. So far, Republicans haven’t made a counter offer.

“It’s not that hard to make a compromise on this if one wants to compromise,” Stumbo said. “A compromise isn’t doing what one side wants. A compromise is when both sides get something that neither side wanted.”

Senate Majority Floor Leader Robert Stivers II, R-Manchester, blamed House Democrats for the impasse, saying they’re engaged in political posturing.

Stivers was optimistic that a deal could be struck by Monday “if the House wants to be reasonable.”

The General Assembly must redraw congressional, legislative and Supreme Court districts every decade to reflect population shifts based on the U.S. Census.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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