By Kelly McKinney
4:17 PM EST, January 7, 2013
Kentucky State House Representatives have much to tackle as they take on the 2013 General Assembly short session. Required redistricting that will split up Jessamine County and result in at least two House representatives for the county likely will be a major focus, while pension reform and possible amendments to the “Pill Mill” bill from last year also will likely be addressed, said state Rep. Bob Damron, D-Nicholasville.
Other concerns, such as tax reform, might necessarily be put off for a special session, he said.
The required legislative redistricting has proved an issue not quickly resolved.
The state redistricting that was initially approved last year moved 9,300 voters from Damron’s 39th District into Republican Stan Lee’s 45th District. That redistricting was challenged in court, and a Kentucky Supreme Court decision in February 2012, affirmed a previous ruling that the new districts were unconstitutional, so the entirety of Jessamine County returned to the 39th District under the old lines.
Damron said the county will have to be split up to comply with the state constitution, which requires no more than a 5 percent deviation in each district from the average number of people in a district. The average is 42,000, so each district can have no more than 44,100 and no fewer than 39,900. The 39th district, which also encompasses part of Fayette County, currently has about 51,000, Damron said.
Damron said faster than average growth in the area has caused the district to become so overly large.
“The population in our area has grown so fast since 2002,” Damron said. “It has increased faster than other areas.”
The last redistricting was done in 2002; the Constitution requires redistricting every 10 years.
Damron had originally hoped to keep the inside city limits of Nicholasville from being split into separate districts, and likewise with Wilmore. But that might not be possible, he said.
“Who knows what’s going to happen,” Damron said. “We have to get in there and look at the various maps and work it out.”
The new directions from the court, based on the state constitution, will cause major changes in some of the districts.
“It’s an archaic part of the constitution that should have been removed a long time ago,” Damron said. “But it is what it is and we have to work with it.”
Directions from the courts dictate that the smaller counties not be split up if possible, the lawmaker said.
Rather, the larger counties should be split and added to those smaller county populations to create districts that meet the guidelines. Jessamine, with a population of about 49,000, will more than likely be split, with areas being combined with surrounding counties, including Woodford and Mercer.
Pension reform is another hefty topic the House will likely take up in addition to the redistricting, Damron said. The state has a $33 billion unfunded liability.
The “pill mill” bill from last year, which requires doctors to run KASPER (Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting) reports on patients before prescribing narcotics, will likely be added to and tweaked, Damron said. The Board of Medical Licensure has submitted several recommendations, including requiring urine tests be done on patients.
Other issues, such as proposed tax legislation to bring in more revenue, will likely be postponed because the lack of consensus makes it unlikely an agreement can be reached in this short session, Damron said.
While redistricting will likely be a major topic for the House, the Senate will not be in a rush to tackle it, as the issue might take up the entire session, leaving other issues, particularly state pension reform, unaddressed, said state Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville.
The Senate will likely take up redistricting during a special session if the governor calls one, or put it together in January 2014, just in time for the elections, he said.
Because there are no elections in 2013, there's no urgency to get it done, the Senator said.