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August 26, 2013

Redistricting plan zips through House

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — FRANKFORT — A newly drawn map of state House legislative districts sailed through the House Wednesday on a strong 83-17 bi-partisan vote.

Only 15 of the 45 Republicans voted against the bill drafted by the majority Democrats and Speaker Greg Stumbo. They were joined by two Democrats, Rita Smart of Richmond and Jimmie Lee of Elizabethtown, who objected to their counties being split five and six ways, respectively.

But Republicans who spoke during floor debate may have provided a preview of a potential court challenge as most of them cited a Georgia case which attorneys for plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit challenging the Kentucky legislative maps currently before a three-judge panel have cited in motions and pleadings.

The bill now goes to the Senate which is expected to amend it to include a plan its Republican leadership has drawn for its own districts. That plan, too, has generally been well received by the Democratic minority in the Senate and the two plans, combined into one bill, are expected to pass easily by Friday.

But that probably won’t be the end of it because the whole matter is scheduled for federal trial on Sept. 23 before Judges William Bertlesman, Gregory van Tatenhove and Danny Boggs who Wednesday denied motions by Stumbo to amend a previous order declaring the previous maps unconstitutional.

In 2012, the General Assembly passed new legislative maps but they were subsequently declared unconstitutional by state courts. While the House passed a new map for its districts this past spring, the Senate declined to act upon it.

Subsequently, the two federal lawsuits were filed and a Sept. 23 trial date was set by the federal panel. That prompted Gov. Steve Beshear to call the special session which convened Monday to pass new, constitutionally appropriate maps which the court will review before the Sept. 23 hearing.

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