Pee Alert: Frankfort Redistricting Reform

In the Herald-Leader on April 23, 2013:

Gov. Steve Beshear signed a bill into law Friday that changes boundaries for legislative districts, potentially ending nearly two years of wrangling by lawmakers over how to redraw the maps.

Three federal judges overseeing the legislature’s efforts will have the final say on the constitutionality of the House and Senate districts that the two chambers signed off on Friday before Beshear signed the bill into law.

“I expect these maps will withstand legal scrutiny, so all Kentuckians can be assured of appropriate representation in the General Assembly,” Beshear said in a statement.

The House voted 79-18 Friday morning to approve the redistricting bill soon after the Senate had passed it 35-2, reflecting broad bipartisan support.

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The bill Beshear signed Friday starkly contrasts with a measure passed last year that was struck down as unconstitutional by the Kentucky Supreme Court. That plan would have essentially forced some Republican representatives and Democratic senators out of the legislature. The partisan bickering that resulted from those efforts led to lawsuits that slowed Kentucky’s enactment of new boundary lines.

The Senate State and Local Government Committee made slight changes Thursday to the 13th Senate District in Lexington, held by Sen. Kathy Stein, a Democrat. The committee removed five precincts from Stein’s district, including the home precinct of Elisabeth Jensen, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for Central Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District.

Jensen acknowledged Friday that she had been asked to consider seeking Stein’s seat if Stein is appointed to a vacant seat in Fayette Circuit Court. Stein has said she would be honored to be considered for the judgeship.

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Friday’s legislative action is likely to trigger a new round of court motions asking the federal judges to review the new boundaries.

Chris Wiest, a lawyer who represents several Northern Kentucky residents in the federal lawsuit, said there have been concerns that many Republican districts have higher numbers of voters than Democratic districts in the new House map.

The redrawn House boundaries put four incumbent Democrats and four incumbent Republicans in the same districts. The Senate proposal would pit no incumbents against each other.

All kinds of smoke and mirrors then.

And this past Saturday:

Yet, as with other arcane mechanisms, such as your car’s engine, neglect brings on system failure.

Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court has kept open a path to help save democracy from breakdown. Under a June 29 ruling, states are free to shift all or part of the responsibility for apportioning congressional and legislative districts from legislatures to independent commissions.

Now would be the ideal time for Kentucky to join this reform movement. The next Census is five years off — enough breathing room to concentrate on doing what’s right, rather than how to rig the 2022 elections and beyond to advantage particular politicians or parties.

Redistricting is a decennial low point for the General Assembly. The attempt in 2012 was such a brazenly self-serving fiasco that, even before it was thrown out by the courts, Gov. Steve Beshear called for creating a non-partisan, citizen-based group to guide the process in the future.

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None of the ideas for reform have gained traction in a legislature unwilling to give up power. But every now and then, lawmakers do what’s best for Kentucky even at their political peril.

With a push from the public, this could be one of those moments. The reward would be competitive elections in districts that represent genuine communities of interest.

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Unlike in Arizona, Kentucky can’t initiate a ballot question allowing voters to reform redistricting. Kentucky voters could have a say if the legislature put it to them in the form of a much-needed constitutional amendment. The section in need of change is 124 years old and was tailored for an agrarian state with less than half the current residents.

Equal populations are fundamental to representative districts. Ill-considered state Supreme Court rulings have made it impossible to create districts anywhere close to equal populations without slicing and dicing populous counties. This muffles and distorts the voices of the places where Kentuckians are flocking and that are creating jobs — a loss in representation that hurts the whole state.

It’s been going on all these years. But the state legislature, controlled by a thin Democratic majority, has killed it at every turn.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

Come On, Matt Bevin, Quit The Schadenfreude (Just Kidding. Don’t.)

The Council on Postsecondary Education is holding a series of public meetings around the state to get input on a new five-year plan to guide Kentucky’s higher education and adult education systems. Don’t worry, this won’t matter. Don’t get too excited about it. [H-L]

A 94-year-old former SS sergeant who served at the Auschwitz death camp has been convicted on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder. [HuffPo]

Since Bevin accused the newspaper of continually trying to perpetuate lies about what he said, I went back and found every reference to him and early childhood education and every reference to him and Head Start after that. [C-J/AKN]

President Obama challenged Republicans to back the nuclear agreement with Iran, arguing it would allow a future GOP president to keep a stronger check on Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. Obama conceded few, if any, GOP elected officials will back the deal. But he called out Sen. Rand Paul by name, asking whether the 2016 presidential hopeful would support the agreement. [The Hill]

State government faces an unexpected $5 million to $6 million increase in personnel costs in a couple of years but the impact of an Internal Revenue Service ruling could have an even bigger impact on budgets of local governments and school districts. State officials have been informed by the IRS they must start withholding Social Security and Medicare taxes from employees’ contributions to their pension plans and the state — or local government employer — will have to match those contributions. [Ronnie Ellis]

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign on Tuesday inadvertently tweeted a promotional photo featuring what appeared to be Nazi German soldiers superimposed on the U.S. flag alongside the controversial real estate magnate’s face. [Reuters]

People in Cave City don’t know how to parallel park and old ladies are losing their minds. Two downtown business owners approached the city council Monday night, complaining about the parallel parking along Broadway Street. [Glasgow Daily Times]

Why choosing the right surgeon matters even more than you know. In February 2012, LaVerne Stiles went to Citrus Memorial Hospital near her home in central Florida for what should have been a routine surgery. [ProPublica]

Numerous homes were damaged or destroyed, family gardens were leveled, and dozens of vehicles were submerged by rushing floodwaters after a flash flood ripped through parts of eastern Rowan County. [The Morehead News]

In three sentences laying out his overarching theory of government, Walker appears to align himself with political theorists, some of whom died more than a century ago, who would radically dismantle the American system of government. He also appears to align himself with more modern constitutional theorists who wish to reinstate long-discredited Supreme Court cases that would eliminate much of the legal framework protecting workers from exploitation. [ThinkProgress]

Tuesday evening’s storms dumped heavy rain on much eastern Kentucky. Many people had to be rescued from their homes because of the high water. [WKYT]

Climate change risks should be assessed in the same way as threats to national security or public health according to a new report. [BBC]

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes’ efforts to allow online voter registration in Kentucky kept moving through the legislative process Tuesday, though one lawmaker tried to derail it. [H-L]

The New Horizons mission to Pluto has been a dream come true for scientists, who’ve waited years to get their first close-up glimpse of the distant dwarf planet. But some of the informal names they’re giving its distinctive features are straight out of nightmares. [HuffPo]

What Happened At The Black Caucus?

Wondering where Matt Bevin stands on discrimination? Maybe where he stands on being able to fire someone or kick them out of their home because they’re gay?

From The News-Enterprise:

While advocating diversity in politics Saturday before the Kentucky Black Caucus meeting in Radcliff, GOP gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin said he was against extending equal protection to the LGBT workforce.

Asked afterward if he was OK with an individual being fired because of sexual orientation, Bevin said, “I believe in equal opportunity under the law,” and in the forum said he believed in protecting religious freedoms.

Sannie Overly?

During the forum, Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor Sannie Overly said Frankfort needed to have a legislative conversation in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to allow same-sex marriages in all 50 states.

“I look forward to … making sure all Ken­tuckians are protected in their homes and in their workplaces,” she said.

In Kentucky, only state workers and those living in communities that have adopted so-called fairness ordinances are protected by law from discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

Almost as vague as Jack Conway. Just generic enough to rope in confused homophobes.

They also bickered over raising the minimum wage and over early childhood education.

But at least there was this:

Two things the candidates agreed on were removing the statue of Jefferson Davis from the Capitol Rotunda and that their campaigns are distinct from each other.

HEAD – DESK.

Kentucky Racists Proudly Fly Their Flag

The Davies household is like any other with small children and working parents at 5:30 p.m. — 10-month-old Caroline scoots across the floor; Kate, almost 3, looks frantically for her baby doll while their parents deal with dinner-making, dog-walking and bedtime-starting. [H-L]

This ought to freak some conspiracy theorists out a bit. Pope Francis appealed to world leaders on Saturday to seek a new economic model to help the poor, and to shun policies that “sacrifice human lives on the altar of money and profit.” [HuffPo]

Before this week at the Kentucky Speedway, Trevor Armes had donned a Confederate battle flag symbol on his belt buckle. The 22-year-old from Fairdale hadn’t flown the real deal atop an RV. [C-J/AKN]

President Barack Obama on Friday created three new U.S. national monuments in Texas, Nevada and California spanning more than a million acres (400,000 hectares) in a move he said helps preserve America’s beauty but that Republicans condemned as a “surreptitious land grab.” [Reuters]

The details in a 63-page report on improper spending and other matters in the Fairview School District paint a picture of poorly controlled financial management and a school board that was poorly informed and in some cases did not know its responsibilities. [Ashland Independent]

A scientific assessment on the impacts of hydraulic fracturing in California found that, in large part, the chemicals used are not being identified or tracked, and it’s nearly impossible to tell how damaging the process is to California’s water supply. [ThinkProgress]

The Cave City Council adopted a resolution during a special-called meeting Wednesday allowing Mayor Dwayne Hatcher to proceed with an application for a homeland security grant. [Glasgow Daily Times]

Over the past 15 years, America’s fortunes have changed with dizzying speed. [BBC]

The U.S. Department of Justice says it is investigating hiring practices at the Bowling Green Police Department. [WHAS11]

Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley, currently polling in the low nothings, needs attention. He wants to be the lefty alternative to Hillary Clinton, but the leftier Bernie Sanders has been stealing his thunder. [Politico]

A statement from Alison Grimes’ official office on Friday: I commend South Carolina’s leaders for acting to remove the Confederate battle flag from its statehouse grounds. It is unquestionably a piece of history, and it should remain so, but it does not belong on flagpoles above our government buildings or on public grounds. We should not represent ourselves with symbols of division. As the flag comes down today, let us pray for the victims of the tragedy in Charleston and for continued healing of painful divides in our country. [Press Release]

After a nerve-rattling plunge, stocks in Asia, Europe and the United States managed to end the week ahead of where they started. [NPR]

How would Paul Prather feel if those bakery owners were screaming the n-word and refusing to serve anyone with skin darker than Rand Paul? Would it still be too much to fine them for discrimination? Please. Enough with the microaggression couched in religious kindness b.s. [H-L]

It’s one thing to fight the extremist Islamic State group’s recruitment within the United States. It’s another for the U.S. to help partners tackle the group’s fighters on the ground in Iraq and Syria. [HuffPo]

Too Much Gay To Handle This Early

If this is the worst thing Kentucky Democrats can come up with, they probably ought to just hand over the governor’s mansion. [H-L]

Kim Davis is officially a national embarrassment. [HuffPo]

The U.S. Army has spared Fort Knox in plans announced Thursday to cut it ranks by 40,000 troops as it downsizes from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and responds to budget constraints — and in fact the post will gain 67 soldiers. [C-J/AKN]

There’s reason to celebrate declines in deaths from colon cancer in the United States — unless you live in three areas that are still lagging behind, a new report finds. Hint: This is bad news for Kentucky. [CBS News]

Based on the first and middle names of the parties, Madison County Clerk Kenny Barger said Wednesday he believes his office has issued 12 marriage licenses for same-sex couples. [Richmond Register]

The Obama administration on Wednesday issued a new rule requiring cities to look for racial bias in their housing practices as part of a push to make neighborhoods more racially integrated. [Reuters]

Here’s yet another story about those homophobic, gay-panicked clerks. Nearly half of the state’s 120 county clerks are petitioning the governor for a special session to address “the religious liberty issue” regarding the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses, according to The Family Foundation in Lexington. [Ashland Independent]

Documenting the water crisis in the West, a photographer confronts distress, beauty and man’s complicity. [ProPublica]

The first marriage license issued in Barren County to a same-sex couple went to two Glasgow women who were married Wednesday. [Glasgow Daily Times]

Nearly every headline about the U.S. government’s new report on polar bears echoes gloom and doom. [ThinkProgress]

See video of the failure here. Casey Davis, a Kentucky clerk of court who wants the state to issue marriage licenses online so he doesn’t have to, met with Gov. Steve Beshear Thursday to make his pitch in person. [WKYT]

Heroin use in the US has surged in the past decade as experts say people using opioid painkillers are increasingly turning to heroin as a cheaper high. [BBC]

Steve Beshear told Casey County Clerk Casey Davis Thursday that he should issue marriage licenses to every qualified person or resign. [H-L]

A bill to fund the Department of the Interior stalled Thursday after Republicans tried to add an amendment that would protect the Confederate flag in national cemeteries. [HuffPo]

Bevin & Conway Have Zero Class

Matt Bevin and Jack Conway agreed to appear at a Kentucky Black Caucus event:

In what will be a rare rendezvous in early stages of the governor’s race, Republican Matt Bevin and Democrat Jack Conway will appear alongside each other Saturday in Radcliff.

Bevin has criticized Conway for not scheduling more mutual appearances while the Conway campaign has labeled those criticisms are distractions. But both will headline the Kentucky Black Caucus’ meeting where they will spend about 15-20 minutes each speaking before taking questions from the floor.

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“The areas we will be focusing on are race relations and poverty,” said Stan Holmes, Kentucky Black Caucus vice president and Radcliff councilman. He added that 24 percent of Hardin County youths struggle with poverty daily.

Then both of them panicked and crapped out:

Because of a scheduling conflict, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway will not be able to attend a Saturday event in Radcliff, according to campaign staff.

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Instead, Conway’s running mate, state Rep. Sannie Overly, will attend in his place where she will speak for about 15 to 20 minutes about the Democratic ticket.

While Bevin also was announced, KBC Vice President Stan Holmes said Monday that someone from the Bevin campaign will speak.

Wondering how seriously either Matt Bevin or Jack Conway take matters of race and poverty in Kentucky?

With such disregard that neither can be bothered to show up.

Scheduling conflict? Really? If this were about a drug scandal involving Jack’s brother or a government bailout for some of Matt’s bells or whatever, they’d both show up a day early.

Nothing will change for the better come November.