Embittered by partisan politics over redistricting, some House members from both sides of the aisle worry that the map wrangling will further erode public confidence in lawmakers and the legislative process.
Reshaping legislative and congressional boundaries has dominated the Capitol discourse since the session began eleven days ago. Lawmakers have been working to firm up new lines for state House, Senate, congressional, and judicial districts in time to meet the January 31st candidate filing deadline. There will be election contests this year for U.S. House of Representatives, state House, and the odd-numbered state Senate seats.
Last week, the state House approved a house plan that pits several Republican incumbents against each other and in one case against a powerful Democratic leader. This week, the Republican-controlled Senate redrew its boundaries and put incumbent Democrats in head-to-head election competitions.
A new summit in the redistricting outrage was reached when the Senate approved its plan that ousts Lexington Democrat Kathy Stein from her District 13 seat by year’s end by redrawing that district’s boundaries to encompass counties in northeast Kentucky.
On the House floor today, Rep. Kelly Flood of Lexington says she is grief-stricken over the remapping maneuver and characterized it as a “perversion of democracy.” Stein served in the Kentucky House of Representatives for 11 years before taking the Senate seat left vacant by a retiring Democrat in 2009.
Flood contends that the plan raises several constitutional conflicts that could result in costly litigation “because a majority of Lexingtonians would be disenfranchised until the even-numbered Senate elections of 2014.”
Under the new Senate map, a large portion of Lexington would fall under the fourth Senate district currently represented by Sen. Dorsey Ridley, a western Kentucky Democrat. Flood blasted the change as “fundamentally a perversion of democracy to suggest that the people of Lexington will not be able to vote and select their own state senator.”
Republican House floor leader Jeff Hoover of Jamestown, commented on the pain of political paybacks. He offered some flippant coping advice: “Welcome to our world. You denounce the Senate plan, no different really than what the House did last Thursday.”
He urged the body to reject the final package of redistricting bills that included the redrawn House, Senate, and judicial maps to send a message to voters that lawmakers won’t stand for political trickery and gamesmanship to constituents’ detriment.
Pleas to cast a protest vote and take another stab at the remapping didn’t prove persuasive enough to change the expected outcome. On a vote of 58 to 39 the redistricting maps of state House, Senate, and judicial lines cleared the House, and the measures were sent to the governor’s desk.
Louisville Democrat Jim Wayne says he will request the Legislative Research Commission to review how other states deal with redistricting. Meanwhile, key lawmakers from both chambers and both parties are hashing out their differences on congressional boundaries.
You can see today’s House floor remarks about redistricting tonight on Legislative Update at 11pm ET on KET.