By BILL MARDIS, Editor Emeritus Commonwealth Journal
Tommy Turner, state representative from Pulaski County’s 85th House District, is dissatisfied, maybe frustrated, by futile attempts to realign legislative districts as required after the 2010 federal census.
“They blamed poor old David Williams for never doing anything up here, and David is not up here now and we still can’t get anything done,” Turner declared. Former Senate President David Williams, often blamed for blocking legislation, is no longer a member of the General Assembly. Williams resigned from the Senate after being appointed to a circuit judgeship.
The House of Representatives last week approved a redistricting plan on a partisan vote. The plan has little or no support from Republicans in the House and is unlikely to be approved by the Senate.
“I voted against because it pits 11 Republicans against each other, and in one district it puts three incumbent Republicans against each other,” Turner explained. Also, Turner said most Republicans in the House didn’t get to see the legislative redistricting plan until it was almost ready for a vote.
Turner is not unhappy with realignment of his own 85th District. He would get a little less territory in Laurel County and a little more in Pulaski County. The new plan gives him four precincts in Laurel County and 38 precincts in Pulaski County.
Under the new plan, Pulaski County would be divided into four House Districts instead of the current five. It would push Democrat Terry Mills’ 24th District out of the northern part of the county. Five precincts –– Ansel, Buncombe, Mt. Zion, Eubank and Fall Branch –– are currently in the 24th District.
Parts of four legislative districts that make up Pulaski County in the still-not-approved House plan are:
52nd District, represented by Ken Upchurch, Monticello, who recently won a special election to fill a vacancy created when Sara Beth Gregory was elected to the Senate.
53rd District, represented by David Meade of Stanford. Meade, who succeeded Danny Ford, currently represents what is now designated the 80th District.
83rd District, represented by Jeff Hoover of Jamestown.
85th District, represented by Tommy Turner of Pulaski County.
Turner is the only state representative who lives in Pulaski County. The 38 precincts in the 85th District is more than half of the county’s 59 precincts. He has represented the 85th District for the past 17 years.
A “gentlemen’s agreement” between the Senate and House says the Senate will approve the House’s legislative plan and the House will approve the Senate’s plan. However, Turner expressed doubt the Senate will approve the House plan, especially before the current session ends.
Previously realigned House and Senate districts were declared invalid and a court ordered existing districts to remain in place until new plans are approved.
The General Assembly is in recess now and is scheduled to return March 25 and March 26 in what is referred to as a “ veto session.’
“We can suspend the rules and pass legislation on those two days if both bodies agree,” said Turner.