FRANKFORT — Even while three federal judges keep watch, proposed new legislative maps appear to be sailing through the special session of the General Assembly, which convened Monday.
On Tuesday the House bill easily cleared the State Government Committee on a 25-4 vote, with three Republicans, Dwight Butler, Dian St. Onge, and Sal Santorum and one Democrat, Jimmie Lee, voting no.
The bill was amended in committee to include an emergency clause that would allow the law to become law immediately upon signature by the governor, but it will also now require 51 votes to pass it.
Democratic Speaker Greg Stumbo told the committee the clause was in response to the judges’ ruling last Friday declaring the existing district lines, drawn in 2002, unconstitutional. That prompted a motion before the judges by Stumbo asking them to withdraw the order because of the required 51-vote threshold necessary to make the new maps effective immediately.
After Tuesday’s meeting, however, Stumbo told reporters that’s no longer a concern, that he’s confident the bill will easily clear that hurdle in the House when it comes up for a floor vote on Wednesday.
“After (House Democrats) caucused yesterday and after we heard back from the (Republican) caucus, I’m confident there are enough votes to pass it,” Stumbo said. “I didn’t know that yesterday” when the motion was argued before the federal judges.
“I think it my get upwards of 70 votes, maybe more,” Stumbo said.
The other motion before the courts concerns how any special elections might be conducted if vacancies occur before the 2014 election.
Stumbo contends that by throwing out the 2002 district lines, there would be no appropriate district in which to hold special elections.
He says that such elections are held to represent the voters who chose the departing legislature and if the election is held under the new map, a separate block of voters would choose the successor. Stumbo is asking the court to amend its Friday order to allow any special elections between now and 2014 to be conducted under the old district boundaries.