Republican leaders in the state legislature say that they’re “close” to finishing maps that will determine boundaries in the state’s legislative and congressional districts for years to come.
Though time is running out for a special session to vote on the maps before the state’s 2022 General Assembly begins on Jan. 4, Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said early this week that the state senate is “very close” on its own map and that the legislature is in a similar position on redrawing the state’s six congressional districts.
Not much has changed since earlier this month, when they waxed hopeful about the opportunity to hold a session as early as the end of November.
The state legislature has sole authority to redraw both their own maps and that of their congressional counterparts in Washington, but Gov. Andy Beshear has the authority to call a special session if and when Republicans request one.
A spokesperson for Speaker of the House David Osborne, R-Prospect, said that the house was also close to completing its own map, citing delays in receiving data from the U.S. Census due to the impact of COVID-19 on the federal government’s process.
Beshear has said repeatedly that he’d like to see a “plan” from the legislative leaders before making a decision on whether or not to call a special session.
“It would be our hope that we can get it done in time to go to the governor and request a special session sometime next month,” Thayer said. “If not, we’ll be ready to do it in January… I think when the time is right, we can make a pretty good case for making a formal request of the governor.”
The General Assembly will be tasked starting January with setting the state’s budget for the next two years. They’ll have to decide what to do with a one-time surplus that’s projected in the billions and are likely to tackle measures related to COVID-19.
“I’m hopeful that he (Beshear) will see the good sense in getting redistricting done,” Thayer said. “… If you don’t, it’s likely to be a big distraction during the month of January.”
A major consideration for lawmakers, and potential lawmakers, is that the current filing deadline for candidates now is Jan. 7, just three days after the General Assembly begins. That deadline could be extended if a special session doesn’t take place before then.
Population shifts since the last census in 2010 will also have an effect on districts across the state, as districts need to maintain roughly equal population sizes. Challenges for Republicans could include mitigating population losses in mostly-Republican controlled areas of Eastern and Western Kentucky, as well as keeping incumbents from having to run against each other. Meanwhile the Democratic havens of Lexington and Louisville have seen population growth, along with the more Republican-friendly areas that ring Lexington, Bowling Green and Northern Kentucky.
Some states leave redistricting to an independent commission, but Kentucky, like 27 other states, relies on the legislature to perform the task. That gives the political party in power much say on how the districts’ boundaries.
No proposed maps have been presented to the public as of yet, a fact that has frustrated some such as the Kentucky League of Women Voters who call for a more open process with opportunities for public input before approval.
Current state maps can be accessed on the Legislative Research Commission’s website.