FRANKFORT — The Kentucky General Assembly gave final passage to a bill Thursday to push back the filing deadline for all candidates in this year's election from Friday to Jan. 25 — a rushed effort as both chambers speed through bills to redistrict legislative and congressional seats.
Since the bills making those new districts may not go into law for weeks, House Bill 172 will move back this filing deadline so political candidates know what races they can enter.
Gov. Andy Beshear signed the bill into law several hours later, saying earlier in the day he would act on the bill as quickly as possible, because "people need to have notice of what their districts are going to be."
Democratic members objected to the required second and third readings of HB 172 being waived in both chambers so it could quickly pass, but most joined in to vote for the legislation because of the unique situation.
Republicans blamed Beshear for the rushed situation by his refusal to call a special session late last year to handle redistricting, but the governor said Republicans never submitted a formal proposal for him to do so.
Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, said the ordeal with the filing deadline could have been avoided if Republicans in last year's legislative session — knowing that the U.S. Census data would be significantly delayed by the pandemic — would have voted then to pass a proposed bill to push back the deadline for 2022.
House Bill 172 pushes back the filing deadline not just for candidates to the state legislature, Congress and the Kentucky Supreme Court, but every other candidate for local, state or federal office that is in the May primary.
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The delay in the filing deadline will be temporary, as HB 172 stipulates that next year it would go back to the first Friday in January.
Both chambers are scheduled to remain in session Saturday to give final passage to several redistricting bills crafted by the Republican supermajority, including ones making new maps for the state House and Senate, Kentucky's U.S. House districts and the Kentucky Supreme Court.
The House passed the bill to redistrict their chamber Thursday — House Bill 2 — on a mostly party-line vote, as Democrats repeated their objections that the maps were unfairly drawn to split urban areas and further advantage Republican candidates.
Rep. Rachel Roberts, D-Newport, one of the Northern Kentucky Democrats who had their urban district divided, said the map does not seem like a fair outcome for the state's citizens, but instead for "a select party and select incumbents bent on favoring grudges of the past over fair fights of the future."
House Republicans first unveiled their maps last week, while Senate Bill 2 from Senate Republicans to redistrict their chamber was first unveiled Tuesday, the first day of the 2022 legislative session.
The Senate also passed Senate Bill 2 — changing their own chamber's districts — but with a favorable vote from most Democrats, who had no incumbents pitted against each other.
Most of the criticism of SB 2 came from the three Republicans who voted against it, including Sen. Adrienne Southworth, R-Lawrenceburg, who repeated her complaints from committee that the GOP-drawn maps were too partisan.
Southworth — whose district was dramatically altered — proposed a floor amendment for an alternate map that kept her district largely intact and refrained from excessively splitting large counties like Fayette and Warren, though it failed when her motion did not receive a second.
The Senate also passed Senate Bill 3 to redistrict Kentucky's congressional seats by a 28-4 vote, with every Democrat voting for the bill.
Senate Republicans refrained from splitting Jefferson County's heavily Democratic Third District to vie for a total GOP sweep of Kentucky's congressional delegation, but solidified the 6th District of central Kentucky as a Republican stronghold for Rep. Andy Barr.
The SB 3 map also stretched the 1st Congressional District of GOP Rep. James Comer from the western edge of the state all the way to Franklin County in central Kentucky.
The Senate also passed SB 20 to change the process in which legal challenges to redistricting are handled, moving it from a randomly assigned three-judge panel to the circuit court in the home county of any potential plaintiff.
Each of the redistricting bills are expected to receive final passage on Saturday and head to Beshear, though some Democrats have suggested a legal challenge will be filed to block HB 2 from going into effect.