Session Update: Week 1

The 156th session of the Kentucky General Assembly kicked off on January 4th, and legislators have two primary legislative priorities to resolve before it ends on April 14th. The first is state and congressional redistricting, and the second is passing the first full, two-year spending plan since 2018.

REDISTRICTING

The first week of session was spent addressing the first priority: Redistricting. So what is it?

Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts a head count of everyone in the U.S. Based on this count, new legislative and Congressional district maps are drawn, reflecting changes in our population and its demographics, to make sure that there is equal representation. The Census is directly tied to our representation in elected office, and is a vital foundation of our democracy.

Data from the 2020 census, delayed by the pandemic, was just released this August.

The results of the 2020 Census showed that many counties in the Commonwealth experienced dramatic shifts in population, requiring the state to update the state legislative and U.S. Congressional district maps. Generally, Eastern and Western Kentucky lost population, while there were gains made around Louisville, Lexington, Bowling Green, and Northern Kentucky.

Unfortunately, Kentucky does not have an independent redistricting commission, so legislators basically draw their own maps. In an ideal world, there would be no political bias (such as protecting incumbents or making districts more politically viable for a given political party). In practice, redistricting is an intensely politicized process, and the fear is always that the end result will be that political parties choose their voters, instead of voters choosing their representatives.

Our Constitution requires ensuring districts are contiguous and compact. In addition, district maps cannot violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits racial gerrymandering that would in any way disenfranchise minority voters.

On December 30th, Republicans revealed essentially outlines of their proposed maps, which looked like this: https://apps.legislature.ky.gov/recorddocuments/note/22RS/hb2/RM.pdf

An unofficial, but much more detailed map of the new 40th District looks like this: https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?mid=1rsNV998FQeD_wKF0auknZF7q9MpyLDop&shorturl=1&ll=38.202997425267576%2C-85.7785295&z=12

There have been many changes made to District 40, and the easiest way to check if you are in the new district is by checking your precinct number.

The list below is of precincts that are part of the new District 40:

Precincts remaining in the 40th District:

K110 – Precinct 110 40 District

K111 – Precinct 111 40 District

K112 – Precinct 112 40 District

K113 – Precinct 113 40 District

K114 – Precinct 114 40 District

K116 – Precinct 116 40 District

K117 – Precinct 117 40 District

K118 – Precinct 118 40 District

K119 – Precinct 119 40 District

K122 – Precinct 122 40 District

K123 – Precinct 123 40 District

K125 – Precinct 125 40 District

K131 – Precinct 131 40 District

K134 – Precinct 134 40 District

K135 – Precinct 135 40 District

K136 – Precinct 136 40 District

K137 – Precinct 137 40 District

K140 – Precinct 140 40 District

K141 – Precinct 141 40 District

K142 – Precinct 142 40 District

K143 – Precinct 143 40 District

K150 – Precinct 150 40 District

K151 – Precinct 151 40 District

Precincts Added from the prior 35th District:

H114 – Precinct 114 35 District

H115 – Precinct 115 35 District

H153 – Precinct 153 35 District

Precincts Added from the prior 37th District:

I107 – Precinct 107 37 District

I109 – Precinct 109 37 District

Precincts Added from the prior 38th District:

J101 – Precinct 101 38 District

J104 – Precinct 104 38 District

J107 – Precinct 107 38 District

J130 – Precinct 130 38 District

J146 – Precinct 146 38 District

J147 – Precinct 147 38 District

J154 – Precinct 154 38 District

Precincts Added from the prior 42nd District:

M105 – Precinct 105 42 District

M130 – Precinct 130 42 District

M148 – Precinct 148 42 District

M166 – Precinct 166 42 District

M169 – Precinct 169 42 District

M170 – Precinct 170 42 District

M171 – Precinct 171 42 District

Precincts Added from the prior 44th District:

O123 – Precinct 123 44 District

House Bill 2, which passed the House on Thursday and the Senate on Saturday, finalized the new House district maps. In addition, House Bill 179 establishes a new Kentucky Supreme Court district map. Both bills received final passage by the General Assembly on Saturday.

Lawmakers also approved on Saturday Senate Bill 2, which establishes a new Senate district map, and Senate Bill 3, which establishes a new Congressional district map. All four bills will now be sent to the governor’s desk for his signature or veto.

I voted no on these maps due to the lack of public transparency and input in the redistricting process. It is simply not good government to rush through something which will have such a profound impact on democracy for the next decade in our Commonwealth.

Legislators also passed House Bill 172 this week, which moves the candidate filing deadline for every candidate filing for the 2022 primary election to Jan. 25 at 4 p.m. The original deadline was Jan. 7 at 4 p.m. This one-time postponement of the candidate filing deadline was to give lawmakers time to approve the new district maps and give candidates time to see the new maps before they file.

HB 172 was approved by an 84-12 vote in the House on Wednesday and by a 28-4 vote in the Senate on Thursday. Gov. Andy Beshear promptly signed the bill into law, which went into effect immediately due to an emergency clause attached to the bill. I voted for this bill because I believe that candidates should be able to fully assess their decision to run for elected office, with all available information and in all fairness.

THE BUDGET

As for the budget, Kentucky lawmakers typically vote on spending plans during even-numbered years. In 2020, economic uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic led legislators to pass two one-year budgets in 2020 and 2021.

This year, we hope to get back on the normal budget schedule, and will have 60 legislative days with an April 15 deadline to approve a budget for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 fiscal years.

House Bill 1, the executive branch budget; House Bill 241, the transportation budget; and House Bill 244, the judicial branch budget were all filed on Friday.

The Governor’s budget address to lawmakers will take place on Thursday, January 13th.

UPCOMING BILLS

The Senate Standing Committee on Education heard testimony on two bills this week: Senate Bill 1 and Senate Bill 25.

SB 1 is an act relating to school councils. Supporters of the bill say it will give the community more say in things like curriculum and principal selection. SB 25 would give school districts 10 more remote instruction days to use per school for the remainder of the 2021-22 school year. It also contains provisions to address staffing concerns in public schools.

Both bills were approved by the Senate Education Committee this week. The Senate approved SB 1 by a 25-9 vote on Saturday. It will now go to the House for consideration.

We are back to work on Jan. 10 for the sixth legislative day.

You can keep up with bills and votes by visiting the General Assembly’s website (legislature.ky.gov).  To leave a message for me or any other legislator (or all of us), you can call 1-800-372-7181.  This service is available during normal business hours throughout the year, but is open longer during legislative sessions.

If you would like to watch legislative proceedings, KET has an app for that, and you can also search for “LRC livestreaming” which will take you to the website where you can access meetings as they happen.  All are also archived.

In addition to leaving me a phone message, you also the have the option to email me at Nima.Kulkarni@lrc.ky.gov.

I look forward to hearing from you!

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