New legislative boundaries for 138 members of the general assembly have been approved and signed into law by Kentucky’s governor.
The final votes in favor of legislative redistricting were overwhelming: 35 to 2 in the Kentucky Senate and 79 to 18 in the House. Most of the debate occurred as the full Senate took its first vote on the bill. Senate President Robert Stivers said these new district boundaries will have an impact across the Commonwealth.
“When you move five thousand people in Fayette County, it will ripple all the way down to Pulaski County, and when you look at a county in western Kentucky and you move it around, it will ripple all the way to central Kentucky,” Stivers said.
The new redistricting has already encouraged a Butler County state representative to consider a run for Senate. Morgantown Republican C.B. Embry Jr. is now in the same district as Warren County Republican Jim DeCesare.
Embry told Kentucky Public Radio early Friday afternoon that redistricting has made him reconsider his future plans.
"Now I'm not fixing to announce or anything, but I'm leaning toward running for the sixth Senatorial district next year. That would be Butler, Ohio, Muhlenberg, and Hopkins counties," Embry said.
The sixth Kentucky Senate district is currently represented by Madisonville Democrat Jerry Rhoads. Embry admits it would be a tough challenge to take on Rhoads, given that the voter registration in the sixth Senate district has a Democrat majority.
Warren County Representative Jim DeCesare said he plans to run for the 17th District House seat.
Legislator redistricting is done every ten years and, in Kentucky, is often a very partisan process. In the Senate this year, Democratic Minority Leader R.J. Palmer claims that wasn’t the case. Palmer remembers when President Stivers, who’s a Republican, first approached him about redistricting.
“I want you to draw a map. I don’t want to know what it is. I want you to work with members of my staff and your own staff and produce a map,” Palmer said. “After I stood back up from shock, I said I’ll be glad to do it, I appreciate the opportunity.”
Although she voted yes, Grayson Senator Robin Webb was sorry to lose some constituents, who are now in a different district.
“It’s almost like losing an appendage or losing an arm,” she said. “It’s very personal, and I can’t hardly talk about it without getting emotional. So, I want to talk about to my people, that I’m losing or losing me, and it is personal and I appreciate them and we’ve gone through a lot together and it’s hard.”
Without much fanfare, the bill returned to the House and won final approval. The general assembly’s first attempt at redistricting was overthrown by the state supreme court. But this time, House Speaker Greg Stumbo doesn’t anticipate any trouble.
“We’ve done all we can do. If a federal court finds a legitimate reason to do so, it will be one we don’t know about,” said Stumbo.
Governor Beshear had signed the bill into law before midday with no ceremony.