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‘Some movement’ on congressional redistricting

FRANKFORT – The state House and Senate still have not reached a compromise on the redrawing of boundaries for Kentucky’s six congressional districts, but House Speaker Greg Stumbo appeared more optimistic Thursday that the two sides could reach an agreement.

“I think there’s at least some movement,” said Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg.

He said the House has offered another compromise plan to Republican Senate leaders. That plan specifically addressed some concerns of Republican U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, Stumbo said. Rogers’ district includes most of Eastern and Central Kentucky.

The filing deadline for candidates is Jan. 31, but lawmakers could extend the deadline to give the two sides more time to hammer out an agreement.

Stumbo said he met and talked with Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers about the congressional map on Thursday morning, although no meeting has been set between leaders of the two chambers to produce a new congressional map.

Stivers, R-Manchester, said negotiations are “going slowly.”

HERALD-LEADER FRANKFORT BUREAU

Battle over redrawing Kentucky’s congressional districts on hold until Monday

UPDATED AT 1:13 P.M.

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT – The state House and Senate adjourned Friday until Monday without approving a bill to redraw boundaries of Kentucky’s six congressional districts.

The lack of action means the Jan. 31 filing deadline for candidates for U.S. Congress may have to be extended.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo said he thinks Monday would be the last day for the legislature to act on House Bill 2, the congressional redistricting bill, without changing the filing deadline.

Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said the Jan. 31 filing deadline for legislative and state Supreme Court candidates should stay in effect if Gov. Steve Beshear signs into law on Friday a bill already approved by the legislature to redraw those districts.

House gives final approval to controversial legislative redistricting bill

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — The state House sent to Gov. Steve Beshear a controversial legislative redistricting bill Thursday that would move the district of Democratic State Sen. Kathy Stein from Lexington to northeastern Kentucky.

House Bill 1, approved on a 58-39 vote, redraws the boundaries of all 100 House districts and 38 Senate districts. It also redistricts the state’s seven Supreme Court districts.

Beshear is expected to sign it into law, though Stein’s supporters were lobbying for a veto. The Democratic governor had nothing to say about the bill on Thursday.

The House did not agree with the Senate on a plan to redraw the boundaries of Kentucky’s six congressional districts. A conference committee made up of representatives from both chambers started meeting Thursday afternoon to negotiate a compromise on House Bill 2 but finished about 5 p.m. without any resolution. It is to resume negotiations Friday.

House and Senate prepare to fight over Kentucky’s congressional map

By Beth Musgrave
bmusgrave@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — The Republican-led state Senate approved its plan to redraw the boundaries of Kentucky’s six congressional districts late Wednesday, setting up a fight with the Democratic-led House in coming days over the contentious political issue.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo said the House will not accept the Senate’s plan, which means leaders from both chambers will have to hash out their differences in a conference committee. Stumbo said he is hopeful the two sides can strike a deal on House Bill 2, which includes the congressional map, by the end of Friday.

Time is running out to reach an agreement. The filing deadline for candidates to seek state and federal offices is Jan. 31. If an agreement is not worked out by the end of this week, the legislature may have to push back the filing deadline.

Republican Sen. Damon Thayer of Georgetown, chairman of the Senate State and Local Government Committee, said the Senate’s congressional map does not differ greatly from the current congressional map.

Plan would put Hal Rogers’ home county in two congressional districts

PDF: House plan for congressional districts

By Jack Brammer
jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — A state House committee voted along party lines Thursday to split the home county of Republican U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers of Somerset into two congressional districts as it redraws the boundaries of Kentucky’s six districts.

The plan contained in House Bill 2 also moves Boyle, Garrard and part of Jessamine counties from Central Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District to south-central Kentucky’s 2nd District.

It also makes Northern Kentucky’s 4th District a more urban district and moves Daviess County from the 2nd District to the 1st District.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, acknowledged after the House State Government Committee approved the bill that it is likely to change before becoming law.

“I assume it will go through some vigorous debate and likely transformation,” he said.

Proposals to redraw Ky. congressional districts would bring big changes

By Beth Musgrave and Jack Brammer
bmusgrave@herald-leader.com

PDF: View the proposals

FRANKFORT — Two new proposals to redraw the boundaries of Kentucky’s six congressional districts could mean major changes for Central Kentucky voters.

Both plans appear to benefit Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, who represents Lexington and many surrounding counties in the 6th Congressional District.

The proposals — one pushed by the Democratic-controlled House and another by unnamed members of Kentucky’s congressional delegation — would move Republican-leaning Jessamine and Garrard counties out of Chandler’s district, replacing them with counties that lean more Democratic.

Republican Andy Barr, a Lexington lawyer who narrowly lost to Chandler in 2010 and plans to challenge him again in 2012, said Tuesday that the emerging plans amount to “incumbent-protection gerrymandering for a weak incumbent.”

Florida governor reverses course, will allow tracking of pain pill prescriptions

Florida Gov. Rick Scott | Associated Press

By Halimah Abdullah and Lesley Clark — McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — Florida Gov. Rick Scott reversed course Thursday and said he will allow a prescription drug monitoring program that Kentucky officials have demanded to help block the flow of illegal prescription drugs coming from the Sunshine State.

Scott’s opposition to funding the database in recent months brought sharp criticism from Kentucky’s congressional delegation and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, causing the Obama administration to enter the fray.

During the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing, Scott told Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., that private companies, not pharmaceuticals firms, are putting up the money to fund Florida’s prescription drug monitoring program for two years. Scott, along with the state’s attorney general, last month launched a statewide strike force to take a law enforcement approach to fighting the problem.

“If we have a database that I can deal with — and we’re going forward with the database, it passed last year — my focus is making sure we deal with the privacy concerns,” Scott said after the hearing. “There are many citizens all across our state that are very worried about their personal data being in a database, and so I’m going to be very focused on making sure I deal with those privacy concerns.”

Census: A lot of Kentuckians will get a new congressman

By Bill Estep – bestep@herald-leader.com

A lot of Kentuckians are going to get new representatives in the U.S. House because of significant shifts in the state’s population.

The eastern and western ends of the state lost population between 2000 and 2010 while the middle third grew, according to U.S. Census figures released this week.

Three of the state’s six congressional districts fall short of the necessary population, while the other three are over it.

The national average for a U.S. House District will be 710,767.

However, the target number will vary by state; dividing Kentucky’s population of 4.3 million by six seats means a population target for each district of about 723,000.

Sponsor of derailed meth bill challenges opponents to find another solution

State Sen. Tom Jensen, R-London

By Jack Brammer – jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — A state senator expressed disappointment Monday over the demise of his bill to ban over-the-counter sales of cold medicines that contain pseudoephedrine and urged his colleagues to help him come up with a solution to stop deadly meth labs in the state.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Tom Jensen, R-London, said current laws are not stopping meth labs, noting that 1,100 labs were found last year in the state.

“I will ask over the next few months you figure out a way to stop the labs,” Jensen said to his Senate colleagues. “If my solution is not the answer, figure out a way.”

A state data-collection system showed that 498,000 people in Kentucky bought pseudoephedrine last year, he said.

“How is law enforcement supposed to track them?” he asked.

Changing his ways, Rogers helps lead GOP effort to cut spending

U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky.

By Halimah Abdullah – habdullah@mcclatchydc.com

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers is undergoing a makeover of sorts.

Widely known for steering federal dollars to projects in his district, the Somerset Republican and House Appropriations Committee chairman is now helping lead GOP efforts to trim fat from the federal budget.

He’s joined by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, himself no stranger to earmarks, and together the two Kentucky lawmakers are wielding enormous sway in the debate over cutting billions in federal spending.

“The American taxpayers have lost confidence in the way Washington is managing their money, and Chairman Rogers is working to repair this by cutting spending and stopping the overreach of government bureaucracy,” said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

As recently as this week, Rogers was pivotal in helping craft and get passed a two-week federal funding stopgap to stave off a looming government shutdown. The measure slashes $4 billion from the federal budget by nixing funding for several education, highway and agricultural programs, among others.