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Governor calls special session to address redistricting

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By Calen McKinney

Lawmakers will head back to the office a bit earlier than they planned.

Gov. Steve Beshear called a special session last Thursday, to begin Aug. 19, in which lawmakers will be given the task of approving a redistricting plan for House and Senate and some judicial boundaries.

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

In a news release last Thursday, Beshear stated, "Leaders in both chambers have indicated to me a willingness to utilize the same census numbers for legislative and judicial redistricting as were used for Congressional redistricting in 2012. This will make all redistricting plans consistent and avoid having to address Congressional redistricting again.

"I am confident that both the House and Senate will have their plans drawn and any remaining issues resolved by Aug. 19 so the special session will last only five days and therefore minimize the expense to taxpayers."

Taylor County's State Rep. John "Bam" Carney, R-Campbellsville, said he had hoped a special session could be avoided because of the cost, which is estimated at costing the state $60,000 a day.

However, he said, that figure is misleading in that it includes salaries for all of those who work at the capitol. Some work year round, he said, and would be paid regardless of a special session.

In all, Carney said, he believes special sessions actually cost between $25,000 and $30,000 a day.

"There's no dispute that it does cost more money," he said.

Special sessions must last at least a week, because of the required three readings of bills.

Carney said he was hopeful that redistricting would be addressed during this year's regular session. Though it ended on a high note with a pension reform bill passed, Carney says redistricting is a very political process and could end with hurt feelings.

And he said that might be why Beshear called the session for August, to allow a few months of down time between the special session in August and the next regular session in January, when lawmakers will have to approve the state's budget. He also said many vacations are planned during the summer months.

"I understand why we're doing it in August," he said.

Regardless, he said, changes in representation can be difficult.

"It's a change for the constituents and it's a change for the member."

House of Representatives members approved a redistricting plan during this year's session, though it didn't make it out of the Senate.

In most proposals he has seen, Carney said, Taylor County has been kept in a representative district with Adair County.

"Doesn't mean that it will happen," he said. "But I'm hopeful it will."

He said Taylor and Adair counties have physical barriers and share many resources, which make the two a natural fit.

Carney said lawmakers have been told there are many counties in the state that are too large for only one representative, but also been told to split as few counties as possible.

"Time will tell what the maps are gonna look like," he said.

State Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, said last Thursday that he would rather see redistricting addressed in January

Higdon said he doesn't believe redistricting will impact Taylor County. He said redistricting plans have, in the past, typically taken a county from his districts and replaced it with a smaller one. Last time, he said, he lost Nelson County and picked up Casey and Lincoln counties.

He said Taylor County's representation hasn't routinely been discussed before as one that could change.

Higdon said redistricting needs to be done and he is glad it will.

"I'm glad we're doing it," he said. "But I just hate to see us spend the money."

He said he sees four potential redistricting scenarios.

"All of them, I keep Taylor County," he said.

Higdon said redistricting always brings interesting discussion, but he hopes he will continue to represent Taylor County, as he was born in Campbellsville.

"It would be a shock to me and my constituents to lose Taylor County," he said. "It's just such a good fit. It's always been my home away from home."

Carney represents Taylor and Adair counties. Higdon represents Taylor, Marion, Mercer, Nelson and Washington counties.

If a redistricting plan is approved during the special session, it will likely contain a clause that states it will go info effect immediately.

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.