Legislature convenes, redistricting to be approved this week

Committees meet Wednesday to review GOP-drawn plans

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ/AP) — Kentucky‘s legislature convened Tuesday for the start of a 60-day session, with Republican lawmakers firmly in control of decisions about the next

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Sen. Karen Berg, D-Louisville (left), speaks with Sen. Donald Douglas, R-Nicholasville, at his desk in the Senate/Legislative Research Commission

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(left to right) Sen. Jared Carpenter, R-Berea; Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson; and Sen. Rick Girdler, R-Somerset, converse before the beginning of the day’s session in the Senate/Legislative Research Commission

state budget and a range of other policy matters.

As is custom, lawmakers gaveled into session at midday on opening day. They had an immediate task ahead of them — redrawing congressional and legislative maps in response to shifting population trends across Kentucky. GOP leaders hoped to wrap up the once-a-decade chore in the first week of an election-year session that will stretch into mid-April.

The first order of business is approving new maps for state House and Senate districts as well as the state’s six congressional districts.

Those plans were approved on what amounts to a ceremonial first-reading Tuesday and sent back to the state and local government committees, which will meet Wednesday to begin the approval process.

Both chambers are expected to vote on the plans on Thursday with the work finished by Saturday at the latest.

With supermajorities in both chambers, Republican legislators will set the agenda and determine the outcome of legislation, wielding enough clout to override vetoes by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear if they stay unified.

Lawmakers’ foremost task will be writing a new budget — the state’s overarching policy document.

Top lawmakers signaled they want to return to passing a two-year budget, after the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic led to one-year budgets the past two years. Unlike the lean years of the past, lawmakers have the advantage of deciding what to do with unprecedented amounts of surplus state money as well as another huge round of federal pandemic aid.

Other issues expected to be at the forefront include education, taxes, workforce development, abortion and sports wagering. Recovery efforts for tornado-stricken parts of western Kentucky will get considerable attention.

While House Republicans unveiled their redistricting plan last week, Senate Republicans didn’t release theirs until Tuesday’s session (To view maps click the documents: Congressional Plan   Senate Plan    Senate (Fayette) (1)  Senate (Northern KY)  Senate (Jefferson) ).

“Ensuring equal representation among the state’s population is a great responsibility entrusted to the legislative branch. We have worked hard to ensure these maps
meet the requirements outlined by federal law and the Constitutions of the United States and Kentucky,” Senator Robby Mills (R-Henderson), chair of the Senate State and Local Government Committee, said in filing the measure.

Redistricting is the process that determines who represents us. Redrawing of legislative maps occurs every ten years following the United States Census Bureau’s release of decennial census data. The U.S. Constitution and federal law requires redistricting to provide for equal representation among the population. The Constitution of Kentucky requires that districts should be contiguous and preserve whole counties when possible.

According to 2020 Census data, the population of Kentucky grew by 0.1% to just over 4.5 million. Divided among the state’s 38 state Senate districts equates to a population deviation of +/- 5 percent of 112,647 to 124,503 citizens per district. For Kentucky’s six congressional districts, it equates to approximately 751,000 per district.

The General Assembly has the sole authority to redraw district boundaries.

Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) also filed senate Bill (SB) 20 today. SB 20 would reinstate the previous judicial process of a sole arbiter, rather than convening a three judge panel on redistricting. The change would avoid a potentially long judicial review of the maps. SB 20 has been assigned to the Judiciary Committee.

State Senate and Congressional maps, Senate Bills 2 and 3 respectively, have been designated as priority legislation. They have been assigned to the Senate Standing Committee on State and Local Government. A committee hearing is scheduled for 11 a.m. EST Wednesday, January 5, in room 131 of the Capitol Annex Building.

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