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

By Beth Musgrave

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.

Kentucky House approves plan to redraw congressional districts

PDF: House plan for congressional districts

By Beth Musgrave and Jack Brammer

FRANKFORT — The state House split mostly along party lines Tuesday in approving a bill to redraw the boundaries of Kentucky’s six congressional districts.

Republicans in the Democratic-controlled House protested that House Bill 2 was designed to protect Democratic U.S. Reps. Ben Chandler and John Yarmuth.

The bill now goes to the Republican-led Senate, where it is expected to undergo major changes.

“Absolutely, the Senate will change the House version to make the new map more like the current map,” said Senate State Government Chairman Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown.

If the Senate changes the House plan “in a positive manner, we certainly will take a look at it,” said House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg. “If the Senate chooses to change it in a political manner, I doubt it would meet very much success over here. We would just have to do without a plan.”

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

PDF: House plan for congressional districts

By Jack Brammer

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

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 –

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.

Rogers will need to slash earmarks to lead appropriations panel

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

By Halimah Abdullah –

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers — who has steered hundreds of millions of federal dollars to projects in his rural district over three decades — knows he must change his ways if he becomes the next chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

“We have no choice. We’re in a drastic, dire situation, federal funding-wise. The deficit is off the charts,” Rogers said. “The borrowing that we’re doing from China is threatening our sovereignty even. So we’re in a drastic situation. We have to cut back on spending. And earmarks, unfortunately, became the symbolism of overspending. And so we have no choice but to rein them in.”

The possible ascension of Rogers in the wake of the tea party-fueled Republican House takeover concerns federal budget watchdogs, who worry that the very type of government pork that tea party candidates decried in their campaigns could flourish under Rogers’ leadership.

“This is a situation where you have someone who is going to be one of the chief spokesmen on spending, the chairman, down on the floor talking about the issue that got a lot of the people there elected,” said Steve Ellis, vice president of the Washington-based Taxpayers for Common Sense. “It’s a bit of a problem for the Republicans because of the fact that the head of the spending committee will be someone who was a prolific earmarker.”

Rogers poised to take control of House Appropriations Committee

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

By Bill Estep –

The senior member of Kentucky’s Congressional delegation stands a good chance of gaining even more clout.

Republican U.S. Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers said Friday that he has a majority of votes on a key panel to become the next chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee if the GOP wins enough seats on Tuesday to take control of the chamber.

Analysts predict the GOP will do just that.

The Appropriations Committee has purview over hundreds of billions of dollars in federal spending.

In his 30 years representing the 5th District, Rogers has been adept at getting federal money for a range of programs and projects, including economic development, infrastructure, tourism and anti-drug efforts.

Heading the budget committee would give him more power, said Joe Gershtenson, director of the Institute of Public Governance and Civic Engagement at Eastern Kentucky University.

Election Preview: Eastern Ky.’s 5th Congressional District

By Halimah Abdullah –

WASHINGTON — The race to represent Kentucky’s 5th Congressional District is a repeat match between a politically powerful Republican incumbent with a substantial war chest and a Democratic political neophyte with meager coffers and virtually no financial support from his party.

Republican U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers of Somerset, known for steering federal money toward projects in his district, may well be on his way to a 16th term.

Rogers, 72, had raised more than $500,000 as of the June campaign finance filing deadline — much of that donated by the defense industry, an effort aided by connections he made while once serving as the first chairman of the House subcommittee on Homeland Security.

Meanwhile, Democratic challenger James “Jim” Holbert, 58, an emergency medical services helicopter pilot from London who is serving as his own campaign treasurer, has struggled to scrape together $10,000 for his grass-roots bid.

Rogers wants taxpayer help for cheetahs

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

By John Cheves –

U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, is sponsoring a bill to give $5 million a year to conservation groups that work overseas on behalf of endangered “great cats and rare canids,” such as cheetahs, lions and Ethiopian wolves.

One group interested in applying, should Rogers’ bill become law, is the Namibia-based Cheetah Conservation Fund.

Its grants administrator, Allison Rogers, is the congressman’s daughter.

“Obviously, I’m waiting with bated breath,” said Allison Rogers, who lives in Versailles. “It would help us a lot because the Cheetah Conservation Fund does not have a very big budget.”