Friday, February 01, 2002

Assembly finally OKs redrawing districts

By Mark R. Chellgren
The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — Weeks of partisan and often personal fighting finally produced overwhelming votes for, but little satisfaction with, new boundaries for the General Assembly and Congress on Thursday.

        The Senate voted 33-4 for the bill, and the House followed with a 93-7 vote. Gov. Paul Patton pledged to sign the bill once it was delivered to him.

        Even with the dramatically redrawn district lines, legislators were not inclined to leave much time for potential opponents to file as candidates. The bill sets a filing deadline of 4 p.m. today, less than 24 hours after it was passed.

        Franklin Circuit Judge William Graham, who is presiding over a redistricting lawsuit and who had suspended the Tuesday filing deadline, could extend it further.

        Senate President David Williams, the point man on redistricting for the GOP, said it was his party that took the lead on drawing fair districts for minorities, forcing Democrats to do what they had failed to in decades of controlling the legislature.

        “In this process, the African-Americans of this state were best served by the Republicans,” Mr. Williams said. “You can smirk, you can make smart comments, you can do whatever — but you can't hide.”

        And Mr. Williams made no apologies for the overtly partisan tone of the bills that favor the majority Democrats in the House and Republicans in the Senate.

        “This is not as vindictive as many previous redistricting efforts done by the Democratic Party,” Mr. Williams said.

        Redistricting has already claimed some legislators, beyond the ones who find their districts moved far away from their homes or into districts with other incumbents.

        House Democratic leader Greg Stumbo said the plans are fair to majority and minority parties.


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