FRANKFORT — Special sessions may be unpopular — legislators understand that well enough to avoid them if at all possible — but two lawsuits over drawing legislative districts may precipitate one soon.
Gov. Steve Beshear has said he wants to call lawmakers back to Frankfort sometime before next January’s 2014 regular session of the General Assembly to redraw state legislative maps.
In 2012, the legislature redrew the maps — each chamber drew its own to benefit the majority’s incumbents and the Democratic House and Republican Senate agreed to accept the other’s. But minority Republican House members and one Democratic senator sued and the courts ruled both plans unconstitutional.
As the 2013 session neared, lawmakers said they could redraw the maps during the regular session without wasting taxpayer money for a special session. The House passed a new map — one Democratic leaders said addressed the findings of the court in the 2012 ruling — but the Republican Senate said there was no need to take up redistricting until the 2014 session and didn’t act either on the House plan or offer one of its own.
But the two federal lawsuits — one asks the court to order the legislature to redraw maps to meet constitutional guidelines while the other asks the federal court to draw the maps — appears to be the prodding lawmakers needed to act sooner.
“We stand ready to do our duty on the call of the governor,” said Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester.
Republican Caucus Chairman Sen. Dan Seum, R-Louisville, said Monday the Senate has a plan which will meet the court’s guidelines.
“We’re ready,” Seum said when asked about a new Senate map. “It doesn’t put any two legislators together and there’s nothing vindictive about it.”
Unlike the congressional maps approved by the General Assembly in 2012 which weren’t thrown out by the courts, the House 2013 map does not count federal prisoners. That’s legal, but Rep. Joe Fischer, R-Ft. Thomas, has suggested the House plan might still face a court challenge because he said it can’t use two sets of rules to draw congressional and state house districts.