FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — On Tuesday, the Kentucky General Assembly gaveled in for the start of the 2022 legislative session.
Lawmakers quickly moved their redistricting bills forward as they attempt to pass new maps by Saturday. The new maps will impact voters for the next ten years.
On December 30th, GOP leaders in the Kentucky House revealed their proposed map. The Kentucky Senate revealed its proposed senate and congressional maps late in the afternoon on January 4th. Critics say this leaves little time for the public to look at, analyze, and comment on the proposed maps.
Joshua Douglas, a voting expert and law professor at the University of Kentucky, criticized the process on Twitter.
"The lack of transparency on KY redistricting is reason by itself to reject the proposed maps," tweeted Douglas. "Let's have an open process where fair maps for voters, not incumbents, are the focus."
However, GOP leaders defended their maps. Senate President Robert Stivers said while the maps will create changes, they follow every rule that needs to be followed.
"They're different - make no doubt - they're different. But let's be realistic, our guiding principles are naturally - legally and constitutionally - defendable. And I believe we've done that with both maps," said Stivers. "But then there has to be a certain sense of personal consideration, and I think that was done because there are no incumbents running against each other."
Democrats in the General Assembly say more details must be released about the maps. Some are also advocating for a change in how Kentucky approaches redistricting.
"We need a non-partisan redistricting committee - because we should take the politics out of this," said Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey. "It's what we should do to have fair and transparent maps."
While redistricting is expected to take up the first few days of the 2022 session, other issues are already arising as well.
As Kentucky's COVID numbers surge to all-time highs, the Governor is hoping the legislature will consider returning some of his emergency powers.
"I am asking the General Assembly to return authority to require masking in public schools," said Governor Andy Beshear on Monday.
In 2021, lawmakers passed several laws that made changes to the governor's emergency powers. For example, if the Governor wants to extend an emergency order, he must call in the legislature.
Reporters asked Stivers if they were willing to revisit those decisions, and he made it clear that likely won't happen.
"I'm not going to ever say anything is off the table, but I would say there is a very slim chance that that would be revisited," said Stivers.
When asked about returning the governor's ability to enforce masking in schools, Stivers shook his head.