Kentucky lawmakers will go into special session later this year to craft new maps of political districts based on the most recent U.S. Census data. Legislative leaders want a tentative agreement in place before returning to Frankfort, but one of the hang-ups is whether to include federal prisoners being held in the commonwealth.
Kentucky law says a prison cell is not a residence, and the inmate population can, but doesn't have to be taken into account when drawing political maps. State lawmakers counted federal prisoners when they approved a new Congressional map last year. That map was upheld by a judge while the legislative and judicial maps were ruled unconstitutional.
Lawmakers will use this year's special session to redraw legislative and judicial maps. Legislative leaders agree on the need for consistency, and contend they can't use one set of data for one map and different data for another. House Speaker Greg Stumbo wants the congressional map amended and argues it would have a minimal impact on districts.
"There's only about 8,500 federal prisoners and the average congressional district is 770,000," explains Stumbo.
Senate President Robert Stivers argues consulting again with each congressman would prolong a costly special session.
"So now we get into a situation where we're engaging the federal delegation in a special session issue," remarks Stivers.
This week, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear is expected to issue the date for a special session on redistricting. He met last week with legislative leaders to plan for the session, amid growing pressure to finish the task.
The state supreme court ruled the General Assembly’s first attempt at redrawing political boundaries unconstitutional. Two lawsuits have been filed seeking to speed up the process, and one calls for redistricting to be done by federal judges, but Governor Beshear says that’s not the way to go.
“You know, the courts are sort of divorced from the political setting and the legislature needs to take care of its own business and take care of its own districts and so, they’re gonna step up and do that," Beshear says.
The goal is for lawmakers to have a tentative agreement before they return to Frankfort to avoid a lengthy special session, which would cost taxpayers about $60,000 a day. It takes at least five days for a bill to work through Kentucky's legislative process, which means taxpayers would foot at least a $300,000 bill.