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January 18, 2012

Not everybody happy about redistricting

House proposal links McCreary with Jackson County

FRANKFORT —  It's the most partisan of partisan political decisions lawmakers make.

    And there were cries from state House Republicans on Wednesday as the majority House Democrats unveiled a state legislative redistricting plan which potentially pits nine incumbents against each other, including placing three incumbent Republican lawmakers in the same district.

    The plan was passed out of committee Wednesday and passed the full House on Thursday 63-34 with only five Republicans voting for it.

    Republicans offered their own plan, but it never stood a chance of passing the Democratic controlled House.

    Incumbent Republicans Jim DeCesare of Bowling Green, Michael Meredith of Brownsville and C.B. Embry of Morgantown would be in the same district under a plan drawn by Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, and Rep. Mike Cherry, D-Princeton, along with other Democratic leaders.

    Republican Floor Leader Jeff Hoover of Jamestown, who now faces a potential primary in his newly drawn district which will stretch from Monroe County to a portion of Pulaski County, said the plan is unfair and is the sort of partisan maneuvering that causes the public to lose faith and trust in government.

    “I just think it shows they are political cowards,” Hoover said.

Danny Ford, the Republican Whip from Mt. Vernon who is now looking at a district that stretches from Madison County through his home county of Rockcastle then along a pencil-thin line in Pulaski to Casey County, called the plan “gerrymandering.”

    Stumbo said the plan was not built out of “bitterness,” but was driven by population shifts.

    “On balance, the plan is a very good plan and I think it'll have a good deal of support unless the Republicans want to block vote it,” Stumbo said. He said a lot of Democrats are also unhappy, including House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, who loses Rowan County where he represented the area of Morehead State University, his alma mater.

    Marie Rader, R-McKee, will lose Owsley County in her newly drawn district which stretches from Jackson through a narrow corridor in Laurel County to pick up an entirely new county - McCreary.

    “It's a new day today and we take what cards we are dealt and do what we can do,” Rader said. She said Owsley County has “been dear to me.” But she said she understands the political nature of redistricting and she said she'll “work with the people of McCreary County to give them the best representation possible.”

    The bill actually contained three plans: the House districts; one for the Senate based on current districts which the Senate will replace with its own plan; and new districts for the Supreme Court. That map was submitted by the court to the House and simply adopted - something Hoover said technically violates the constitution which gives authority to the legislature to draw the districts.

    The bill can’t become law without Senate approval but “tradition” holds for one chamber to accept the other's plan in exchange for acceptance of its own.

    Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, said later Wednesday that won't change.

    “To expect that the House could have any impact on the Senate plan or the Senate on the House plan would only be a recipe for gridlock and that won't happen,” Williams said.

    He said the Senate is likely to pass its redistricting plan this week and it may pit some incumbents against each other - “but it won't put three Democrats in the same district,” a reference to the House plan which puts Republicans DeCesare, Meredith and Embry in the same district.

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