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Thursday, February 09, 2012

Kentucky House Appears Willing To Abide By Judge Shephard's Oder On Redistricting So Members Can Run In Current Districts, Senate Mum On Plans.

House Democrats won't challenge order to run in current districts
Written by Joseph Gerth

FRANKFORT, KY. — House Democrats decided Wednesday not to challenge a circuit judge’s order that they run for re-election in their current districts.

But they plan to ask the Kentucky Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of the redistricting plan that was at issue and was struck down Tuesday by Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd.

“I think probably most people just want some end, if you will, to this situation and want to know where they are going to run, when they are going to run and who they’re going to run against,” House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said in an interview.

There was no word on how the Senate intends to proceed — or whether the two chambers can try to resolve things in different ways.

If lawmakers run in their current districts — and Shepherd set Friday as the filing deadline — the logjam that the redistricting issue has created in this year’s General Assembly could come to an end.

It has stopped work on important legislation as lawmakers waited for a plan to be put in place and the filing deadline to pass — meaning they would know what kind of opposition they face this year.

“There is a … great deal of feeling in our caucus that we want to move on,” Stumbo said. “If that means running in our old districts, then so be it.”

Shepherd ruled that both the House and Senate plans didn’t meet constitutional “one-man, one-vote” standards, and he ordered that this year’s legislative races be run in the current districts, which were drawn in 2002.

While the House is not challenging Shepherd’s order on the way the 2012 election will be handled, it still will ask the high court to rule on the constitutionality of the redistricting plan and to provide direction about how to remedy the map if it is found to be illegal.

In the Senate, Damon Thayer, chairman of the State & Local Government Committee, said earlier in the day that it was that chamber’s preference to work on a new map that would meet constitutional muster rather than accept Shepherd’s ruling that members must run in their current districts. But senators can’t do that without agreement from the House since both chambers would have to pass such a plan.

Senate Republican Floor Leader Robert Stivers of Manchester raised the possibility that Shepherd’s order to run in the current districts — some of which have populations that are too large or small to meet federal and state redistricting guidelines — may itself be illegal.

“Under the 14th amendment, one man-one vote principle, we feel it would be subject to attack on that issue alone if we did nothing and would think that some legislator or some citizen may decide to file a federal action,” Stivers said. “What we want to do is comply with the law.”

Meanwhile, Stivers said that there needs to be a change in the state constitution that prohibits the splitting of counties that have fewer residents than the ideal district.

That provision has led to oddly-shaped districts, challenges to redistricting plans and larger counties like Pulaski and Laurel that are split numerous times but have no districts that are fully within their borders.

“It has to be changed because it does not in any way make it practical to try to comply with that section,” he said. “If you take it literally … that chapter of the Constitution needs to be rewritten to ... apply to modern times.”

Legislators and others continued to file papers with the Secretary of State’s office in an effort to make sure they are eligible to run in the right district and have filed the proper paperwork.

Meanwhile, the House and Senate made no headway in resolving the impasse over a congressional redistricting plan after a House-proposed compromise was rejected by Senate Republicans Tuesday.

Stumbo said he believes the issue is dead and will end up in the federal courts, where judges will draw new maps.

Stivers, however, said he believes there is still an opportunity to compromise.

“From my perspective, it is alive and well because … as long as we’re in session, we can draw congressional maps,” he said.

Editor's comment: But isn't it illegal for any member to run in current districts that are beyond -5% TO +5% AS MANDATED BY fISHER 11 sUPREME cOURT CASE?

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