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 when it passed a map of its own. The Senate requested this process wait until early next year, however, and while I still think there was time, I am certainly pleased that we were able to accomplish such things as putting put our pension systems for state and local governments on much firmer financial footing and setting the stage to raise the high school dropout age to 18.
When this year’s legislative session ended in March, it was assumed that redistricting would have to wait until January. That timetable changed 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 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.
In the end, 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.
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.
As the plan exists currently, our 95th House District will now include all of Floyd County and a portion of Pike County. It does not represent much change compared to some districts, and I look forward to getting to know those whom I have not had the opportunity to represent in the past.
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 that will govern the next election cycle.
There has also 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, and I committed to doing what I can to help.