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Speaker: Lawmakers hope to wrap up redistricting plan soon

November 10, 2021 GMT

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Republican lawmakers hope to wrap up work “relatively soon” on a plan to redraw congressional and legislative boundaries in Kentucky, House Speaker David Osborne said Wednesday.

Their supermajority status in the General Assembly puts Republicans in full control of the once-a-decade redistricting process. But their lopsided majorities also could create complications, due to population losses in many rural counties represented by GOP lawmakers.

Neither Osborne nor Senate President Robert Stivers offered glimpses into how the state’s congressional and legislative districts will be reconfigured.

“We’ve had multiple meetings with members, with the minority (Democrats) and continue to work on a map that we hope to have completed relatively soon,” Osborne told reporters.

Stivers continued pushing for a special legislative session on redistricting yet this year to keep it from being a distraction when the 2022 session convenes in early January. The decision on whether to call lawmakers into a special session is up to Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear.

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“We need to get it done,” Stivers said. “We need to be called in before the (2022) session starts.”

Osborne said a special session remains possible, though “we are running tight on time at this point.”

Beshear spokesperson Crystal Staley said Tuesday that GOP legislators have npt asked to meet with the governor to discuss redistricting, nor have they presented him with a plan.

“Before a special session is called, there must be agreement on a plan,” she said in a statement.

Stivers told reporters he has discussed redistricting with Beshear aides.

If there’s no special session, Osborne said he anticipated lawmakers taking up redistricting in the first week of the 2022 session. That would force lawmakers into extending the filing deadline for candidates. That filing deadline for candidates now is Jan. 7.

Among the unknowns as the redistricting work continues are whether incumbents will be lumped into the same legislative districts and how the boundaries will be drawn for the 3rd Congressional District — a Louisville-area district represented by Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth. The state’s five other districts have GOP congressmen. Yarmuth is not seeking reelection in 2022.

Rep. Joni Jenkins, the top-ranking Democrat in the Kentucky House, said boundary revisions are inevitable in the 3rd District due to population changes but urged Republicans to avoid big changes.

“Do we really need to carve up the most blue part of the state?” she told reporters. “I think that would be seen as just purely political maneuvering.”

Redistricting has taken longer than usual because the 2020 census data was late, due to delays related to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s a mathematical formula that takes a lot of thought, it takes a lot of hard work,” Osborne said. “To rush it would be inappropriate.”

Jenkins said a special session yet this year no longer seems to be an option because “we’re just running out of time.” Kentuckians deserve ample time — from a couple of weeks to a month — to review the new maps and offer input, she said. And potential candidates need time to know the configuration of their districts to decide whether to run for office, she said.

“It’s important that we don’t rush this,” she said. “It’s a big part of democracy.”