A Legislative Perspective on the Kentucky General Assembly with State Representative Rick Rand
FRANKFORT – Last week, the General Assembly returned to the Capitol to re-draw the geographic lines that govern the 100-member House and the 38-member Senate.
It’s something we and every other state are called upon to do each decade, to reflect the differences in population found by the Census.
Normally, this would be done during a regular legislative session, which is what the House attempted to do earlier this year. The Senate requested this wait until early next year, however, so that we could fully focus on putting our pension systems for state and local governments on much firmer financial footing, legislation that is expected to save taxpayers billions of dollars in the years ahead.
That timetable for redistricting was forced to change, however, when two federal lawsuits were filed several months ago in attempt to speed the process up. To avoid the possibility of federal judges drawing the maps, Governor Beshear had no choice but to call legislators into special session.
Those who follow this issue may recall that this is the second time the matter has been contested in court. Last year, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that the maps we previously passed into law needed to be changed. In the House’s case, they said we could not split more counties than mathematically required, even though our map had split the same number of small counties as the map that became law in 2002.
To follow that new requirement, that means we can split 22 counties larger than a House district and just two others so we can also make sure that each district is no more than five percent above or below the target population of about 43,000 people. We also have to ensure that minority-voting rights are properly preserved.
Last week, both the House and Senate saw the process work smoothly, and the result was strong, bipartisan support in both chambers. Our hope is that the federal judges will find that these maps meet all of the requirements, so that we can put this issue behind us.
Assuming that is the case, all 138 districts will see changes. Even areas that did not gain or lose much population have to be altered, because they all have to fit like pieces of a puzzle.
Under this map, the new 47th District will include four complete counties: Carroll, Gallatin, Henry and Trimble.
Many of you have questioned why this process has taken so long, and like you, I wish it could have been resolved much more quickly. However, I am pleased that the public now has plenty of time to get comfortable with these changes, which will take effect statewide following the next general election in November 2014.
There has been a lot of discussion about how we can improve this process after the next Census, which is something I hope we can accomplish. Many worthwhile ideas are already being considered.
If you would like to comment about this as well, please don’t hesitate to let me know. You can write to me at Room 366B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601.
You can also leave a message for me or for any legislator at 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.
I hope to hear from you soon.