By Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — State lawmakers may have to redraw the boundaries of Kentucky’s six congressional districts later this year when they meet in a special session to remake state legislative districts, Gov. Steve Beshear said Monday.
Beshear said he expects to announce the date of a special legislative session by Friday, when a hearing is scheduled in a federal court case filed by northern Kentucky officials and residents who say they are disadvantaged by the legislature’s inaction on redistricting.
The House and Senate passed new boundaries for congressional districts and state legislative districts in 2012, but the maps for state districts were ruled unconstitutional by the Kentucky Supreme Court.
Two federal lawsuits have been filed that seek to force lawmakers to create new boundaries for legislative districts or allow a federal court to draw the boundaries. Lawmakers are required to set new boundaries once each decade to account for shifting populations.
A key point of contention between House Democrats and Senate Republicans has been whether to include federal prisoners in their population counts when redrawing district boundaries.
The House pushed a plan for state legislative districts earlier this year that did not count federal prisoners, but the congressional district boundaries approved in 2012 counted those prisoners.
Beshear said legislative leaders have agreed to be consistent, to either count or not count federal prisoners in new state legislative maps, congressional maps and state supreme court maps. If they decide against counting federal prisoners, the congressional maps would have to be redrawn, Beshear said.
Beshear said he did not expect a legal challenge if congressional maps are redrawn a second time. Although the U.S. Constitution requires new boundaries only once every 10 years, some states redistrict more often, he said.
Beshear said he has not spoken to Kentucky’s congressional delegation about the possibility of redrawing the districts they represent. Any changes would affect no more than a few thousand voters, he said.
Only Beshear can call a special legislative session and set its agenda. The legislature decides when it concludes. A special session costs taxpayers upwards of $65,000 a day. It takes a minimum of five days to pass a bill.