Kentucky legislative redistricting bills win key votes

Meanwhile, the House and Senate completed passage of a bill to extend qualifying deadlines for the May party primaries to 4 p.m. local time on Jan. 25, 2022. That’s 18 days beyond the Jan. 7, 2022 deadline originally set.

The extension may cause some confusion in some rare cases where candidates, especially opponents, may not live in the district where they qualified or people who signed their qualifying petitions now may not live in the district.

It also has no provision to refund qualifying fees.

The two chambers also are on the verge of approving a bill to limit the ways court challenges will be handled so the new districts aren’t tied up for months in court. New districts fro the state’s six congressional districts and seven Supreme Court districts, as well as the matching appelate districts, also are on a fast track.

House lawmakers overwhelmingly passed the measure setting new boundaries for the chamber’s 100 districts, after a long and sometimes-contentious debate. Democrats kept up their objections that the GOP-drawn map unfairly split urban areas to the benefit of Republicans. The bill recasting the Senate’s 38 districts easily cleared the Senate, with a handful of lawmakers objecting.

Legislative leaders hope to wrap up the once-a-decade redistricting work Saturday and send the measures to Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear. Republicans have supermajorities in both chambers, giving them the political muscle to override any vetoes.

The changing boundaries stem from population changes in the past decade. Eastern and western Kentucky generally lost population, while central and northern sections gained more residents.

The proposed new maps for Kentucky’s six congressional districts cleared the Senate on Thursday, sending the measure to the House. And in a related move, the Senate gave final passage to legislation that would push back this year’s filing deadline for candidates seeking political office. The bill, which goes to the governor, would shift the filing deadline from this Friday to Jan. 25.

As is customary, the proposed new legislative boundaries drew objections from some lawmakers. Surprisingly, most of the complaints in the Senate came from Republicans.

In eastern Kentucky, Republican Sen. Brandon Smith’s district would be spread across nine counties. He currently represents a half-dozen counties.

“I think that we deserve to be able to have more reflective districts down there instead of having something as giant as what has been created with this map,” he said.

Republican Sen. Paul Hornback, who decided not to seek reelection, said most of his north-central Kentucky district was reshuffled elsewhere. Hornback said he understood changes were inevitable but added: but I don’t agree with the way it was done, and neither do my constituents back home.”

Sen. Morgan McGarvey, the chamber’s top-ranking Democrat, noted that Fayette County would be carved into seven Senate districts under the plan, with only one district entirely within the county.

Such a configuration could dilute the county’s political influence, he said. Lexington, the state’s second-largest city, is in Fayette County. The plan’s supporters say that having more lawmakers representing at least a portion of the county could actually increase Fayette’s influence.

Republican Sen. Max Wise voted for the measure but acknowledged the new realities created by the bill. Wise faces the prospect of representing a reshaped district in southern Kentucky.

“This is a very tough day for, I’m sure, many of us who are losing some counties that we represented over the past few years,” he said.

Wise and Smith stressed that they look forward to representing their new counties.

Senate President Robert Stivers, the chamber’s top leader, listed the many Appalachian counties he previously represented during his long legislative career.

Stivers noted that no Senate incumbents were pitted against each other in the same district under the new plan, which he called the “ultimate test of fairness.”

In the state House’s redistricting plan, four sets of incumbents — split equally among Republican and Democratic lawmakers — would be placed into the same districts.

Rep. Norma Kirk-McCormick, one of the Republicans being matched against a GOP colleague, said the redistricting vote was one of the toughest she’s made as a lawmaker.

“The hard part is that it puts me in a position to have to run a primary race against another good Republican candidate,” she said.

Under the new map, she would be placed in the same eastern Kentucky district with Rep. Bobby McCool. She referred to him as a “very good person.”

“Let’s get this show on the road and move on,” she said shortly before the House voted.

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