UPDATED AT 5:12 P.M.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear signed into law Friday a compromise plan to redraw the boundaries of Kentucky’s six congressional districts after the plan rocketed through the General Assembly on Friday.
The new map in House Bill 302 moves part of Jessamine County, including Wilmore, and all of Garrard, Mercer and Boyle counties from Central Kentucky’s 6th District to the 2nd District, which extends west to Owensboro. Lincoln County was moved to Eastern Kentucky’s 5th District.
The 6th District gained the remaining portion of Scott County, a southern strip of Harrison County, and all of Robertson, Nicholas, Fleming, Bath, Menifee and Wolfe counties.
Those changes are expected to make it tougher for Republican Andy Barr to successfully challenge U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Versailles.
The bill contained an emergency clause, which means it took effect when the governor signed it. The measure also set a filing deadline for congressional candidates of Feb. 17.
The compromise proposal ended weeks of deadlock between Senate Republicans and House Democrats.
“I’m signing this bill today to provide certainty to this process so candidates can file for office,” Beshear said in a statement. “Redistricting is always a partisan process, and no redistricting plan will please everybody.”
This one did not.
The House approved the plan in a 58-26 vote just before 3 p.m., less than three hours after the Republican-controlled chamber approved the bill 29-7.
The proposal was unveiled earlier Friday by the Senate State and Local Government Committee, which approved the measure over the objections of committee Chairman Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, in an 8-3 vote.
Sen. Tom Jensen, R-London, said the new plan had been agreed on by Kentucky’s congressional delegation.
Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington, called the new plan a “Ben Chandler Lifetime Employment Act.”
Chandler narrowly won re-election in 2010 over Barr.
“Ben Chandler has turned his back on tens of thousands of his own constituents by cutting a backroom deal to get rid of them,” Barr said in a statement. “This brazen and desperate attempt to avoid accountability for supporting Barack Obama’s job killing agenda is exactly why the American people are so disillusioned with politics and career politicians.”
Chandler, in an email, said the General Assembly’s decision to approve new congressional districts was “good news.”
“I am eager to get to know all new constituents during the election and to represent them in my next term, and I will continue to work hard for residents of the 6th District for the remainder of my current term,” Chandler said in a statement.
Thayer said the congressional map is the first bill to get out of his committee over his objection. He called it “horrific.”
He said the 6th District still is “competitive” for Barr.
During Senate debate on the bill, Kerr said it decimated the district once held by Henry Clay and that it was written by “a group of white men.”
Sen. Tim Shaughnessy, D-Louisville, accused Kerr and Thayer of hypocrisy. He asked where was their concern for Lexington when the legislature attempted to move Democratic state Sen. Kathy Stein’s district from downtown Lexington to northeastern Kentucky.
Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, bemoaned the splitting of Jessamine County into two congressional districts. The northern portion of the county was generally divided along U.S. 68.
He noted that the western part of Jessamine County is only 5 miles from Chandler’s home in Woodford County but will be represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, who lives in Bowling Green.
Debate in the House on the bill also focused mainly on Central Kentucky.
Rep. Lonnie Napier, R-Lancaster, said the people of Jessamine and Garrard counties “have been treated like second-class varmints.”
House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, noted that a previous filing deadline for congressional candidates expired on Tuesday. At the time, candidates filed to represent districts as they were drawn a decade ago.
Hoover said Barr would have a “significant” advantage in challenging the new map in court because of the legislature’s decision to reopen the filing deadline. He called it “an abuse of power.”
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, disagreed. He said there is no problem with reopening the filing deadline for congressional candidates because candidates for Congress don’t have to live in the district for which they file.
Asked about the splitting of Boyd County into the 5th and 4th Districts, Stumbo noted that he had previously proposed putting all of Boyd County in the 5th District and splitting Pulaski County, the home of Republican U.S. Rep. Harold Rogers.
Rep. Tom McKee, D-Cynthiana, said he voted against the new map because it split Harrison County between the 6th and 4th districts.
The legislature’s passage of a congressional redistricting map probably will mean the end of a lawsuit filed Thursday in Franklin Circuit Court by three Lexington residents, who asked the courts to redraw the map to reflect population changes reported in the new U.S. Census.
Scott White, an attorney for the residents and an assistant attorney general when Chandler was state attorney general, said he will ask for dismissal of the suit. He said his clients were Democrats but that Chandler did not instigate the lawsuit.