Senate easily passes legislative redistricting maps 35-2

08/23/2013 09:43 AM

Senate Democrats and Republicans on Friday overwhelmingly signed off on the redistricting maps by a 35-2 vote — a map that includes Senate districts pitting zero incumbents against each other.

The only criticism on the Senate floor was aimed at the House map, which several senators from both parties said was unfair because it split several counties into too many districts. Democratic Sen. Dennis Parrett of Elizabethtown voted against it because of the House map that carved up his home county of Hardin into six districts. And Republican Sen. John Schickel of Union voted not because how the House split up Boone County, including one precinct that’s divided three ways.

The legislation headed back to the House for final approval to bring to a close a special session that was remarkably bipartisan for the politically-charged issue of redrawing legislators maps but was marred by internal tumult in the House amid the revelations of sexual harassment allegations about a longtime Democratic lawmaker.

But senators spent much of the morning debate praising each other for the tone and approach used in crafting the 38 Senate districts using the 2010 Census data.

“In years past, redistricting was a partisan, punitive, power driven exercise,” said Republican Sen. Joe Bowen of Owensboro. “If there is criticism of this map, it from those who believe it is not partisan enough.”

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, again defended the decision to draw one district that was beyond the 5 percent deviation threshold from the ideal Senate District of about 114,000 constituents. The 4th District in western Kentucky, which is represented by Democratic Sen. Dorsey Ridley of Henderson, is under the ideal number by about 6.5 percent. But Stivers said to draw the map a different way would have required placing Ridley into a district with another incumbent or else splitting four counties between districts.

“It is fair, it is defensible in court,” Stivers said. “This is a map that will guide us for the next 10 years.”

Sen. R.J. Palmer, the Senate Democratic leader, praised Stivers for asking the Senate Democratic minority to draw a version of a map. Palmer said Stivers did so for two reasons: because Stivers is running that kind of a bipartisan-focused Senate and to show the minority caucus just how difficult it is to draw a fair map with the constitutional and numerical restrictions.

Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, described the map as “generally reasonable” overall.

Bowen, who chairs the Senate State Government Committee, encouraged senators to vote for the map based on how it drew the Senate districts — not how the House members drew their districts. When the House passed its map on Wednesday by an 83-17 vote, much of the opposition stemmed from concern about counties or cities being split too many ways, such as Scott, Hardin and Madison counties.

Parrett told Pure Politics on Thursday that he couldn’t vote for the final bill because of the way it carved up Hardin County into six House districts — only one of which would be a Hardin County-centric district. The rest would straddle other counties.

Republican Sen. Albert Robinson, R-London, called the House map “shameful” for splitting Laurel County into five districts. The county is currently split up in a similar way without a single one of those five representatives living in Laurel County. They all live in neighboring counties.

“Never would we be able to elect a representative from Laurel County” under that configuration, Robinson said.

Earlier in the week, Robinson introduced a House map that wouldn’t split Laurel County. But that had no hope of passing because each chamber has traditionally drawn its own map. Robinson voted for the final bill.

“In the House, they blatantly turned their communities into nothing but a charade,” said Republican Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill.


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