6:40am

Tue January 3, 2012
State Capitol

Budget, Redistricting Tops on Legislative Agenda

Work redrawing Kentucky’s legislative districts should begin today, just after the General Assembly convenes for its 2012 regular session.  Last night on Kentucky Educational Television, House Speaker Greg Stumbo said the lower house is nearly ready with its proposal.

“We’re pretty close to getting a plan together in the House.  I tell people we’re down to where members are arguing about precincts now, instead of just whole counties and whole regional issues. And when they get to arguing about just a few precincts, we’re almost there,” said Stumbo.

Appearing alongside Stumbo on KET was Senate President David Williams.  Traditionally, Williams says the House draws-up house districts while the senate defines senate districts.  He predicts that will be fairly straight forward.  As for Kentucky’s Congressional Districts, the Senate President says that’ll be more complicated.

“These are political decisions and always will be, as long as you’re dealing with individuals.  And, I think we can work it out and do some redistricting in short order,” said Williams.

Williams says the first legislation should be proposed this afternoon.  Whatever they do this winter, Williams says lawmakers must always consider unemployment.

“Hundreds of thousands of Kentucky families are suffering not only from being unemployed, but under employed.  And our per capita income is less than that in surrounding states. So, I think that everything that we do should be reflected and that should be our guiding beam in this particular session of the General Assembly,” said Williams.

While agreeing unemployment is a priority, Prestonsburg Democrat Greg Stumbo says economic problems can be addressed while also investing in the construction and renovation of schools.

“If you really wanna’ start the economy going in some of these smaller communities, and even the larger communities throughout Kentucky, start building things, and before you know it, people are back to work,” said Stumbo.

Also, expect some debate this winter over the creation of a new state-owned university in Pikeville.  Its primary booster is Stumbo.  He argued the University of Pikeville would not compete with existing schools for state funding.

“I think it’s a unique opportunity.  The proposal that I have uses multi-county (coal) severance tax money, which the publicly funded universities don’t have a stake in anyhow.  It’s in a fund, by statute it’s designated for large economic development projects.  I can think of no better large economic project,” said Stumbo.

Before Kentucky can consider a new state-owned university in Pikeville, Williams says it needs an improved economy.  The Republican said there are other parts of the Commonwealth that also qualify for such a school.

“I think you could make a tremendous argument there needs to be one in Somerset, at Somerset Community College. If you look at those counties down in that area, in southeastern. All these private colleges across the state, whether it be Centre or Lindsey Wilson or Campbellsville or Union or the University of the Cumberlands all have tuition that’s much higher than the public universities,” said Williams.

The regular session begins at noon and lasts until April 15.

“Kentucky Tonight” is rebroadcast this morning at 11 o-clock on 88.9 WEKU.