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County could lose Higdon as senator

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By Calen McKinney

 

When the lines are redrawn, Taylor County will likely keep its representative, but could get a new senator. And State Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, isn't happy about that.

Taylor County residents have already expressed that they aren't happy either.

Taylor County's State Rep. John "Bam" Carney, R-Campbellsville, said he has heard from constituents who are upset about losing Higdon.

State lawmakers are at work this week in special session to form a plan to redistrict House and Senate boundaries.

Senate and representative district and some judicial boundaries must be redrawn after each Census. After the 2010 Census, a plan was approved but was later ruled unconstitutional.

Carney, who currently represents Taylor and Adair counties, said the first two days of the session were successful. He said a plan is in progress that will set House and Senate boundaries for the next eight years, until the 2020 Census.

"So, the good news is there seems to be some progress," he said.

But with good news often comes bad news, Carney said.

"The bad news is some districts could lose some people," he said. "You can't make everybody happy."

Carney said the House's redistricting plan went to the full House floor for a vote yesterday, which was after press time.

After it's approved, which Carney said he believes the plan will be, it will head to the Senate for its approval. He said the houses have a "gentleman's agreement╙ for the Senate to not change the House's districts and vice versa.

In the House's redistricting plan, Carney said, Taylor and Adair counties are staying together as a district. If approved, he said, that means he will continue to represent Taylor and Adair counties until his term ends. Carney's seat is up for re-election next year.

"I'm thrilled it's staying the same," he said.

But the proposed Senate plan, Carney said, calls for Higdon to no longer represent Taylor County.

The district that would include Taylor County also includes Adair, Russell, Cumberland, Clinton, Wayne, McCreary and Russell counties, according to Carney. That would mean State Sen. Sara Beth Gregory, R-Monticello, would begin to represent Taylor County. Higdon said the district would become David Williams' old district, one that Taylor County has been in before.

Gregory currently represents Clinton, Cumberland, McCreary, Monroe, Wayne and Whitley counties.

Higdon currently represents Taylor, Marion, Mercer, Nelson and Washington counties. In the Senate plan, Higdon loses Taylor, Mercer and Washington counties. If approved, his district would then include Casey, Marion, Nelson, Spencer and part of Jefferson County.

The House plan includes an emergency clause, which means the plan will go into effect immediately after Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear signs it.

"As of Friday afternoon, I could cease being Taylor County's senator," Higdon said.

"I'm just really, really disappointed in the way that the plan worked out, as far as me losing Taylor County."

Higdon said redistricting isn't an easy job and he knew he would likely lose a county, as the population of his counties was over the constitutional limit.

"It's kind of like dominos. If you move one, several others change."

The last redistricting process, which was ultimately ruled unconstitutional, wasn't done fairly, Higdon said, and he and other lawmakers vowed that this time it would be.

"I support the process, even though I'm not really happy with the process."

"I am very sad that I'm losing Taylor County," Higdon said. "It looks like that's what will happen."

However, if this plan is approved, Higdon said, it could be challenged as the last plan was.

Higdon said he fought for Senate leadership to keep his district together and allow him to continue to serve Taylor County. And he has expressed disappointment with the plan.

"I just wish it had worked out another way," he said. "I honestly did try to get it changed. I'm not happy about losing Taylor County."

Having been born in Taylor County, Higdon said, he feels strongly for the area and will continue to fight for it.

"As long as I'm in the General Assembly, I will continue to support Taylor County."

Higdon said he saw seven proposed Senate district plans. In two of them, he loses Taylor County.

A Senate committee will meet this morning to consider its plan. Once approved, the plan will be attached to the House plan and voted on by the full Senate.

Tomorrow, the House will then vote on the full plan. If passed, Beshear will be asked to sign it.

The original House plan contained a clause that says new district boundaries will go into effect 90 days after Beshear signs the plan.

But Higdon said the plan now contains the emergency clause that states the plan is to go into effect immediately.

Carney said he has already had some constituents contact him and express their regrets that Higdon might soon no longer represent them. He said there was a great effort to not see Higdon removed as Taylor County's senator.

"It's a sad time," Higdon said. "Sara Beth is a fine young lady. She'll be a good senator."

Higdon said it's easy to feel like he and his constituents have been given a raw deal, but he will always support Taylor County, even if he no longer officially represents the community. He said he appreciates Taylor County's support and believes he might not be a senator without it.

"When you're given a load of lemons, you make lemonade out of it," he said.

Carney can be reached at 465-5400 or john.carney@lrc.ky.gov. To contact Higdon, call (270) 692-6945 or email him at jimmy.higdon@lrc.ky.gov.