House committee adopts Senate and State Board of Education maps

The Alabama House Committee on State Government on Tuesday released reports supporting new district maps for the Alabama Senate and State Board of Education.

The two bills were submitted for consideration by the prosecution by 9 votes to 4 along party lines.

There has been little discussion of the bills, which have already been approved by the Senate.

Rep. Chris Pringle, R-Mobile, said he expects the bills to pass the House as they stand.

“I haven’t heard anyone talk about changing the plan from the Senate to the House,” Pringle said. “And nobody made an amendment today (in committee), so I don’t see that happening.”

Felicia Scalzetti of the Alabama Election Protection Network raised concerns about the lack of competitive constituencies in the Senate and a public hearing process that she said did not provide enough opportunities for public input.

“Bessemer has eight residents in District 16,” Scalzetti said. “Birmingham has 29 residents in District 5. These are very small divisions. It is very disturbing.

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Scalzetti listed several other areas of concern, saying the plan divides about 70 municipalities. His concerns about public hearings echoed earlier comments from lawmakers, noting that most were held during working hours.

Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, said the courts would be the real decision-makers for the districts.

“We’re going to win this in court,” Rogers said. “I’m even more sure after last night. Courts have ruled time and again about not keeping whole counties. It’s a slam dunk.

After Rogers said he spoke with Judge Myron Thompson about the lawsuit, Pringle questioned the comment, alluding that speaking with a federal judge about the case was inappropriate.

Rogers said Thomspon was a good friend and they were discussing the matter confidentially.

“Yeah, you’re ‘off the record’ because you just admitted you discussed it with Myron Thompson,” Pringle said.

There was also some confusion as committee members noted that they had no State Board of Education maps to review. Pringle said this was an oversight on the part of the committee and printed copies were brought to the meeting room for review before the committee voted.

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Asked about Jefferson County delegates’ claims that some Jefferson County officials don’t live there, Pringle said it was really a behind-the-scenes battle for a bigger share of a fund. black for Jefferson County lawmakers.

“They want to get people out so they can have that money,” Pringle said. “But we put people in there to get to the diversion.”

Pringle reiterated once again that population centers must be entered to achieve a diversion for less populated rural counties.

The bills will now move on to the floor of the House when Representatives return at 1 p.m. Wednesday. Pringle said he “is above his pay grade” on whether those bills will pass the House on Wednesday, but he “hopes so.”

Norman D. Briggs