By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — House Republicans unveiled a legislative redistricting plan Thursday that would pit eight incumbent state representatives against each other in four districts — one with two Republicans, one with two Democrats, and two districts with incumbents from each party.
The GOP plan, introduced 11 days before a special legislative session on redistricting begins in the state Capitol, splits 24 counties into multiple House districts. It splits only two precincts in the state — one in Campbell County and another in Hopkins County.
The last Democratic plan presented in the 2013 General Assembly split 157 precincts.
“We believe our redistricting plan is a fair plan for Kentucky and our constituents, who have grown tired of the backroom politics and the thousands of taxpayer dollars spent on blatantly partisan and unconstitutional plans offered in the past two years,” House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, said during a news conference in the Capitol with other GOP House members and several county clerks.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said late Thursday that House Democratic leaders have not had time to analyze the GOP plan. Democrats hold a 55-45 majority in the House, which means the Republican plan stands virtually no chance of winning approval.
“The House of Representatives is working hard to ensure that a map which meets all the constitutional mandates is prepared for session,” Stumbo said. “We continue to include members of both parties in this process as we finalize our proposal.”
Incumbents paired in the Republican plan are Democrats Rocky Adkins of Sandy Hook and Kevin Sinnette of Ashland in the 100th District, Republicans Marie Rader of McKee and Toby Herald of Beattyville in the 89th District, Republican C.B. Embry Jr. of Morgantown with Democrat Brent Yonts of Greenville in the 15th District, and Republican Bart Rowland of Tompkinsville with Democrat Wilson Stone of Scottsville in the 53rd District.
The House Democratic plan offered in this year’s legislative session placed 13 incumbents in districts with more than one incumbent. Republicans were paired in five districts.
All 100 House seats are up for election next year, and Republicans are hoping to wrest control of the chamber from Democrats for the first time in more than 90 years.
Hoover said the GOP plan would create four new districts and split the maximum number of counties into multiple districts that is allowed under the Kentucky Constitution.
One new district would be in eastern Jefferson County. One would be made up of Gallatin and part of Boone County. Another would be comprised of Powell, Estill and a part of Madison County, and another would be made up of Anderson, Spencer and part of Bullitt County.
Gov. Steve Beshear has called a special legislative session on Aug. 19 to approve a redistricting plan for state legislative districts. The session is expected to last five days, the minimum number needed to pass a bill, and will cost taxpayers more than $60,000 a day.
The House and the Senate approved new boundaries for congressional districts and state legislative districts in 2012, but the maps for legislative districts were ruled unconstitutional by the Kentucky Supreme Court.
Lawmakers are required to set new district boundaries once each decade to account for shifting populations.
A lawsuit is pending in federal court to make sure legislators redraw the district boundaries this year. Three federal judges have been assigned the case, brought by a group of Northern Kentucky officials and the ACLU. The judges are monitoring the legislature’s action.
Stumbo did take issue with House Republicans’ claim that the Democrats’ previous plan would cost more than $1 million as county clerks draw updated precinct lines for Kentucky.
House Republican Whip John “Bam” Carney, R-Campbellsville, said in a news release that previous redistricting plans would have resulted in “unnecessary expenditures of approximately $1.5 million for our county clerks, many of whom are strapped for cash.”
Stumbo said that is incorrect.
“In fact, county clerks regularly update precinct lines to reflect population growth, annexations, and other developments. Tracking the new legislative redistricting lines is simply part of this same process,” Stumbo said.
Oldham County Clerk Julie Barr, who is president of the Kentucky County Clerks Association, said she would share the House GOP plan with fellow clerks. She said it appears to have “a lot of legitimacy.”
She said this has been the only time the clerks’ association has been asked for its opinion on a redistricting plan.
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said in an email Thursday that he has not yet discussed redistricting maps with Hoover. Each chamber of the legislature traditionally accepts the other chamber’s redistricting plan.
“The Senate’s position remains that the House will work through their process as we will ours,” said Stivers. “I have not had the opportunity to review the proposed House map from a fairness and legal perspective, which, in the end, will be done by the people and the courts.”
Stivers did not say when Senate Republicans might unveil their plan to redraw the boundaries of Senate districts.