Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Senate panel approves redistricting bill

Proposed changes to how Kentucky is divided into districts for representation in the General Assembly passed out of the Senate’s State and Local Government Committee today.

Senate Bill 137, sponsored by Sen. Albert Robinson, R-Laurel, proposes an amendment to Section 33 of the Constitution of Kentucky which controls how legislative districts are determined. The proposed legislation specifies that redistricting of 38 Senatorial and 100 Representative districts would occur at least once every 10 years, during the first even-year session following the release of the decennial U.S. Census.

Another large part of the amendment: Redistricting would only divide a county under specific conditions. Counties with sufficient population for a district would contain at least one whole district before parts could be separated to create others. It would direct the General Assembly to divide as few counties as possible.

The committee approved the bill, 11-0, and forwarded it to the full Senate. If passed there and by the Kentucky House of Representatives, the proposed amendment would be put to Kentucky voters. It advanced to the House floor during last year’s session, but did not pass after two readings.

Robinson said SB 137 was inspired by his home county.

“Laurel County is one of the reasons I’m presenting this. It has 60-plus thousand people in it, cut five different ways and not one representative lives in Laurel County. Laurel is not the only county in this situation,” he said.

The bill also sets out provisions for redistricting to be carried out in a regular and timely fashion. The General Assembly would have until tax day, April 15, of that first even-numbered year to finalize districts. If it did not, members would be required to stay in session – without pay – for the sole purpose of completing the task.

The next U.S. census is set for 2020, meaning redistricting would have to be completed by the end of the 2022 General Assembly session.