COLUMN: New districts make you ‘curiouser and curiouser’

-A A +A

By David Floyd | State Representative

I really didn’t want to write any more about redistricting, but I’m getting so many questions — about who represents whom? And why did this happen? And why did you make it an emergency? — that it might serve to explain things in a more comprehensive way. I don’t plan to write any more columns on this, so (with apologies to Lewis Carroll) I’ll “begin at the beginning, and go on until I come to the end: then stop.”

All in the golden afternoon
First, our constitution(s) requires it. Redrawing district lines is important, because populations shift and grow and you want to balance things out – equal representation. The population data we use comes from the U.S. census, done every 10 years. The job is to even out the number of people in each district that you draw, whether it’s a county’s magisterial districts, or the districts used for state representatives and state senators.
In Kentucky, 100 state representatives are elected every two years, and 38 state senators every four. State senator elections rotate based on the number of the district: odd-numbered districts (and all state representatives) will be elected this year, to begin serving in January next year. And then the even-numbered districts will be up for election in 2014 (along with all state representatives.)

Down the Rabbit-Hole
There is a deadline to announce your intent to run for your party’s nomination. Usually, it’s late January, and the Kentucky primary election is in May. When you file paperwork for office, you write in the number of the district you want to represent and you gather two signatures from people who are of the same party, live in that district, attest that they believe you live in that district also, and that you are qualified for the office.
This is key: the district that you file for has to exist; it can’t be one that is planned to exist. Remember that to be qualified to file for that district number, for that geographic location, you have to live there and so do those other people who signed your papers.
The Rabbit sends in a little bill
Redistricting has to be approved by the General Assembly, and signed by the governor. It always takes the form of a bill. Normally, a bill becomes effective about mid-July, 90 days after the end of legislative session in which it was passed. But if we waited as normal for the redistricting bill to take effect, the new districts wouldn’t exist until after the filing deadline – indeed, after the primary election. That wouldn’t work.
When your General Assembly wants a bill to become effective sooner (or later) than July, we either name the effective date or attach an “emergency clause,” which means it will take effect immediately upon the governor’s signature. When Gov. Steve Beshear signed the bill on Jan. 20, it became effective. And – Jabberwock! – the new districts existed; the old did not.

The Lobster Quadrille
Thus, all the new Senate and House districts lines are in effect today. For the 50th legislative district, that means that I represent Nelson County but not the Bullitt County precincts; they have been combined with the bulk of Bullitt and part of Hardin County to form the 26th district. Their state representative is now Rep. Tim Moore, from Elizabethtown. Nor do I any longer represent a part of Spencer County; their state representative is Kim King of Harrodsburg. Neither Tim nor Kim lives in those new districts: Curiouser and Curiouser.
A new Senate district was formed that consists entirely of Bullitt and Nelson counties, and was given a “new” number (the 15th Senate District). So Nelson County is no longer represented in the Senate by Jimmy Higdon; their new state senator is Vernie McGaha, from Russell Springs. Bullitt County is no longer represented in the Senate by Paul Hornback; they, too, have Sen. McGaha. Spencer County retains Sen. Hornback.

A Mad Tea-Party
“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
These curious proceedings are the result of political machinations on the part of the majorities in both House and Senate. That’s just the way it works – in about every state in America. But many people think this is madness, so I will try to write legislation that will be constitutionally sound and permit stability in the year of redistricting – which won’t help until after the next census in 10 years.
Despite the new lines, you can be certain that each of us will continue this year to represent and support our “old” districts in both spirit and fact, if not in strict conformance to statute. Sen. McGaha is a wonderful man, who will also give true service. But he is not running for reelection and, of course, doesn’t live in the 15th any more. (I have filed for the 15th district Senate seat.)
I’m happy to talk with you about this or other issues that concern you. Call me at home or leave a message at 1-800-372-7181. This weekend’s “Coffee with Dave” is at Rooster Run out 245. We start at 10:00, and I’ll buy the coffee.