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Ky. legislature passes bill delaying filing deadlines for political candidates

J. Tyler Franklin

Candidates for Congress, state legislature, local government and other political offices in Kentucky will have a couple more weeks to file their paperwork to run for office under a bill that passed out of the legislature on Thursday.

House Bill 172 moves the deadline from Jan. 7 to Jan. 25 for this year only.

Lawmakers approved the measure because of how late they are tackling the once-per-decade redistricting process for seats in the legislature; since new maps haven’t been signed into law yet, candidates wouldn’t officially know what seat they’re running for under the current deadline.

The bill actually moves the filing deadline back to what it was until 2019. During that year’s legislative session,lawmakers voted to shift the date to the first Friday in January, thinking it would remove some of the politicking from filing decisions.

House Majority Floor Leader Steven Rudy, a Republican from Paducah, said he still likes the earlier filing deadline, just not for this year.

“I think it’s still the right thing to do, but under these circumstances with the redistricting and the changes of the maps, that we felt we needed to move this time and this time only,” Rudy said.

The measure now heads to Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, who has 10 days to sign or veto the legislation. If he vetoes it, the legislature can easily override him with a majority vote in each chamber, which are both dominated by Republicans.

This year’s redistricting process was delayed partly because the coronavirus pandemic kept Census data from getting back to legislators in a timely fashion.

Though most other states have finished redistricting, Kentucky is dealing with it late in the game because legislators are in charge of the process, and unless the governor calls them into special session, they can only vote on the maps during their regular session, which begins each January.

Leaders of the Republican-led legislature called on Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear to declare a special session for them to redistrict the state, but the governor said he would only do it if lawmakers shared their plans with him, which they didn’t do.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, a Republican from Georgetown, blamed Beshear for the late scramble and called on voters to support a constitutional amendment that will allow lawmakers to call themselves into session.

“Let’s hope the voters have the wisdom to grant us the authority on that constitutional amendment that will be on the ballot in November. And then 10 years from now, we won’t be dealing with this,” Thayer said.

Lawmakers approved a proposed constitutional amendment last year that would allow the House speaker and Senate president to call a special session for up to 12 days. Voters would have to approve the measure during a referendum that’ll take place on Election Day this year.

Ryland is the state capitol reporter for Kentucky Public Radio. He's covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin. Always looking to put a face to big issues,Ryland'sreporting has taken him to drought-weary towns in West Texas and relocated communities in rural China. He's covered breaking news like the 2014 shooting at Fort Hood Army Base and the aftermath of the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas.
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