By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — House Speaker Greg Stumbo has asked state House members to propose new boundaries for their legislative districts by next Friday, disregarding a request by Gov. Steve Beshear to delay redistricting until later this year.
In a recent letter to House members, Stumbo asked members from each region of the state to meet together and send their proposals for redistricting to his office by Feb. 1.
“We will then see if it can mesh together to form a statewide plan,” he said. “We will then decide if we can move forward in order to reach a consensus on this very divisive issue during this session.”
Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, noted in his letter that Beshear, a fellow Democrat, has asked legislative leaders to delay the contentious redrawing of district boundaries until after this year’s law-making session so the General Assembly can focus on reforms to the state’s ailing pension system.
Stumbo said he would like to accommodate Beshear’s request, “but we must realize this is strictly a legislative responsibility and I believe we should attempt to put together a plan that can pass the House and comply with the latest court decision.”
He was referring to the Kentucky Supreme Court’s decision to throw out last year’s legislative redistricting attempt after the maps were challenged by House Republicans and Sen. Kathy Stein, D-Lexington.
Stumbo also noted that Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, and Senate Republican leadership prefer to tackle legislative redistricting at a later date, possibly even next year.
Stumbo said he has “no problem” with the Senate position. “We will request that they pass our plan without amendments, as we will theirs whenever it is submitted to us for our action.”
The two chambers traditionally approve each other’s redistricting plan without changes, but at the same time.
Lourdes Baez-Schrader, a spokeswoman for Stivers, said in an email that Senate leaders have not changed their position on redistricting.
“Since there are no elections this year, our focus remains on public pension reform and the impact of the Affordable Care Act on Kentucky,” she said.
Stumbo said he wants to proceed with House redistricting because he thinks “it is only fair to our members and their constituents to know well in advance what the boundary lines of all 100 respective districts will be.”
All 100 House seats are up for election next year, while only 19 of the Senate’s 38 seats have elections.
Republicans gained four seats in the state House last November. They now have 44 seats in the House, compared to 55 for Democrats. There is one vacancy.
Lawmakers will return to Frankfort on Feb. 5 for this year’s scheduled 30-workday session. It is scheduled to end March 26.