By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The special session addressing the decennial Alabama Legislature reapportionment is expected to begin on Thursday, if Alabama Governor Bentley calls for the anticipated special session. The Co-Chairmen of the Joint Committee on Reapportionment are Senator Gerald Dial (R) from Lineville and Representative Jim McClendon (R) from Springville. Chairman McClendon discussed the reapportionment process at length Sunday with ‘The Alabama Political Reporter.’
Rep. McClendon has prepared a proposed map of his recommended Alabama House of Representatives districts and Sen. Dial has prepared a proposed map of his recommend Senate Districts. At this point, both maps are just proposals. Rep. McClendon said, “Changes are going to be up to the committee. It is Up to the committee on Reapportionment whether to change the maps or not.”
Rep. McClendon said, “Any legislator can come before the committee and propose changes to the map, but they can’t come to the committee and just propose their perfect district because any change to any one district affects all the other districts. They have got to present a plan for the entire state.” “Don’t give us your perfect house district and then tell us to figure out what to do with the rest of the state.”
Regarding threats of lawsuits by some Alabama Democratic Party members of the state legislature, Representative McClendon said, “I have no idea know what the Democrats are going to do.” “We have gone out of our way to be compliant with the voting rights act” and all the court rulings about voting rights and reapportionment. Rep. McClendon said that he had a constitutional attorney present throughout the process of preparing his proposal.
McClendon did acknowledge that some Democrats have said that the committee had targeted White Democrats. Rep. McClendon said, “We did not target any district, any group of individuals, or any party.” Rep. McClendon said however that White Democrat legislators are not a group that is protected by the U.S. Justice Department. There are Justice Department rules regarding retrogression (decreasing the number of majority minority districts) with respect to Black Representation. “Retrogression does not mean that the Justice Department would throw out the plan, but it is a red flag for the Justice Department and you would have to explain your justification for why that occurred.” Rep. McClendon said that his proposal was very careful not do anything to decrease the number of majority Black districts in the state of Alabama.
The Alabama Political Reporter asked Rep. McClendon specifically about Senator Fielding’s (D) 11th Talladega County district which was sliced up six ways and the heavily Republican voting areas of St. Clair and South Shelby County were added to his district. We asked if the Sylacauga Democrat can he be reelected in that redrawn 11th District. Rep. McClendon replied, “All I can say is that heavily Republican voting areas tend to vote for Republicans. Sen. Fielding served as a judge as a Democrat. He ran for the Senate as a Democrat. I don’t know him and no one was targeting him. I do think he will have an uphill struggle being reelected.”
Rep. McClendon said that the reapportionment maps are a proposed statute and are treated like any other legislation. Thursday the Dial plan and the McClendon plan maps will both be brought before the Joint Committee on Reapportionment. There will be a public hearing, where members of the public may bring forth their ideas about reapportionment. Following the public hearing the Committee will meet again and can approve those maps as submitted or they can offer a substitute plan for reapportionment. What can’t be done is amending the plans. Any plan has to stay within a certain deviation on the number of people in each district. Whatever plan is accepted by the Committee will go to the floor of both the Alabama House of Representatives and the Alabama Senate.
Once reapportionment is on the floor of House or the Senate any legislator can offer a substitute plan. There are plenty of opportunities for the legislature to offer up alternatives to the plan that have been submitted. The legislature does not have to accept the plan that is recommended by the Committee. Rep. McClendon said that there is, “Not a hard and fast deadline’” for the legislature to approve the reapportionment plans.
Rep. McClendon did say though that the plan will be reviewed by the Justice Department and that that will likely take “At least 90 days.” It is possible that someone could file suit and that would take time to be adjudicated in the courts. “What we would like to have is clearance by the last day to qualify,” for the June 2014 Primary.
Rep. McClendon said that declining population in the City of Birmingham and in the Montgomery area cost both of them House districts. District 53 was moved from Birmingham to fast growing Madison County and District 73, represented by Rep. Joe Hubbard (D) is moving to growing Shelby County. “Nobody really knows what will happen, but areas that continue to lose population will lose more legislators,” in the 2022 reapportionment as well.
Today is Thanksgiving
Today is a national and state holiday. Schools, banks, government offices and many private businesses are closed.
Four hundred years ago, on Nov. 11, 1620, after 66 days at sea, a group of English settlers landed near what is today Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Onboard the Mayflower were 102 men, women, and children, including one baby born during the Atlantic crossing, who made up the Pilgrims.
The Mayflower, captained by Christopher Jones, had been bound for the mouth of the Hudson River. The ship took a northerly course to avoid pirates, but the decision to avoid the then widely traveled sea lanes to the New World took the ship into bad weather, which had blown the Mayflower miles off course and left the ship damaged. Off Cape Cod, the adult males in the group made the fateful decision to build an entire colony where none had existed prior. They wrote and signed the Mayflower Compact.
“In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, etc. Having undertaken for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the First Colony in the Northern Parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, Covenant and Combine ourselves together in a Civil Body Politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute and frame such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France and Ireland the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini 1620.”
After a few weeks off Cape Cod, they sailed up the coast until they reached Plymouth. There they found a Wampanoag Indian village that had been abandoned due to some sort of plague. During the Winter of 1620-1621 they lived aboard the Mayflower and would row to shore each day to build houses. Finally, they had built enough houses to actually move to the colony, but the cold, damp conditions aboard the ship had been costly.
Some 28 men, 13 women (one of them in child birth), and 8 children died in that winter. Governor John Carver would die in April. His widow, Kathrine White Carver, would follow a few weeks later. There is some recent archaeological evidence suggesting that some of the dead were butchered and eaten by the survivors.
The Mayflower and her crew left for England on April 5, 1621, never to return.
About 40 of the Pilgrims were religious Separatists, members of a Puritan sect that had split from the Church of England, in defiance of English law. In 1609, they immigrated to Holland to practice their religion but ran into problems there too. Others in the group had remained part of the Church of England but were sympathetic to their Separatist friends. They did not call themselves Pilgrims, that term was adopted at the bicentennial for the Mayflower voyage. The members of core Separatist sect referred to themselves as “Saints” and people not in their sect as “Strangers.”
In March 1621, an English speaking Native American, named Samoset, visited the Plymouth colony and asked for beer. He spent the night talking with the settlers and later introduced them to Squanto, who spoke even better English. Squanto introduced them to the chief of the Wampanoag, Massasoit.
Squanto moved in with the Pilgrims, serving as their advisor and translator. The friendly Wampanoag tribe taught the Pilgrims how to hunt and grow crops. The two groups began trading furs with each other.
William Bradford, a Separatist who helped draft the Mayflower Compact, became the longtime Plymouth Governor. He was also the writer of the first history of the Plymouth Colony and the Mayflower. Bradford’s more notable descendants include author, dictionary writer and scholar Noah Webster; TV chef Julia Child; and Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
In the fall of 1621, 399 years ago, the Pilgrims invited their Wampanoag Indian friends to a feast celebrating their first harvest and a year in the New World with a three-day festival. This has become known as the first Thanksgiving.
Today is a national and state holiday. Schools, banks, government offices and many private businesses are closed.
Alabama hospitals nearing COVID-19 summer surge levels
Wednesday was the 18th straight day with more than 1,000 people in hospitals in Alabama with COVID-19.
Alabama hospitals reported caring for 1,483 people infected with COVID-19 on Wednesday, the highest number of patients since Aug. 11, when the state was enduring its summer surge. Wednesday was also the 18th straight day with more than 1,000 people in hospitals in Alabama with COVID-19.
The seven-day average of hospitalizations was 1,370 on Wednesday, the 36th straight day of that average rising. The Alabama Department of Public Health reported 2,453 new cases Wednesday. The 14-day average of new cases was — for the eighth day in a row — at a record high of 2,192.
Across the country, more than 80,000 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 on Tuesday, a record high and the 15th straight day of record hospitalizations nationwide, according to the COVID Tracking Project, a coronavirus tracking website.
The CDC this week recommended people not travel for Thanksgiving to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“The only way for us to successfully get through this pandemic is if we work together,” said Dr. Kierstin Kennedy, UAB’s chief of hospital medicine, in a message Tuesday. “There’s no one subset of the community that’s going to be able to carry the weight of this pandemic and so we all have to take part in wearing our masks, keeping our distance, making sure that we’re washing our hands.”
Kennedy said the best way she can describe the current situation is “Russian Roulette.”
“Not only in the form of, maybe you get it and you don’t get sick or maybe you get it and you end up in the ICU,” Kennedy said, “but if you do end up sick, are you going to get to the hospital at a time when we’ve got capacity, and we’ve got enough people to take care of you? And that is a scary thought.”
The Alabama Department of Public Health on Wednesday reported an increase of 60 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths. Deaths take time to confirm and the date a death is reported does not necessarily reflect the date on which the individual died. At least 23 of those deaths occurred in November, and 30 occurred in other months. Seven were undated. Data for the last two to three weeks are incomplete.
As of Wednesday, at least 3,532 Alabamians have died of COVID-19, according to the Department of Public Health. During November, at least 195 people have died in Alabama from COVID-19. But ADPH is sure to add more to the month’s tally in the weeks to come as data becomes more complete.
ADPH on Wednesday announced a change that nearly doubled the department’s estimate of people who have recovered from COVID-19, bringing that figure up to 161,946. That change also alters APR’s estimates of how many cases are considered active.
ADPH’s Infectious Disease and Outbreak team “updated some parameters” in the department’s Alabama NEDSS Base Surveillance System, which resulted in the increase, the department said.
Judge reduces former Alabama Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence
The trial court judge ordered his 48-month sentence reduced to 28 months.
Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jacob Walker on Wednesday reduced former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence from four years to just more than two.
Walker in his order filed Wednesday noted that Hubbard was sentenced to fours years on Aug. 9, 2016, after being convicted of 12 felony ethics charges for misusing his office for personal gain, but that on Aug. 27, 2018, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed convictions on one counts. The Alabama Supreme Court later struck down another five counts.
Hubbard’s attorneys on Sept. 18 filed a motion to revise his sentence, to which the state objected, according to court records, arguing that “Hubbard’s refusal to admit any guilt or express any remorse makes him wholly unfit to receive any leniency.”
Walker in his order cited state code and wrote that the power of the courts to grant probation “is a matter of grace and lies entirely within the sound discretion of the trial court.”
“Furthermore, the Court must consider the nature of the Defendant’s crimes. Acts of public corruption harm not just those directly involved, but harm society as a whole,” Walker wrote.
Walker ruled that because six of Hubbard’s original felony counts were later reversed, his sentence should be changed to reflect that, and ordered his 48-month sentence reduced to 28 months.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Wednesday said Walker’s decision to reduce Hubbard’s sentence was the wrong message to send.
“Mr. Hubbard was convicted of the intentional violation of Alabama’s ethics laws, the same laws he championed in the legislature only later to brazenly disregard for his personal enrichment,” Marshall said in a statement. “Even as he sits in state prison as a six-time felon, Mike Hubbard continues to deny any guilt or offer any remorse for his actions in violation of the law. Reducing his original four-year sentence sends precisely the wrong message to would-be violators of Alabama’s ethics laws.”
Nick Saban tests positive for COVID-19, has “mild symptoms”
It’s unlikely Saban will be able to coach in person during Saturday’s Iron Bowl against Auburn.
University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban has tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the Iron Bowl and has mild symptoms, according to a statement from the university on Wednesday.
“This morning we received notification that Coach Saban tested positive for COVID-19,” said Dr. Jimmy Robinson and Jeff Allan, associate athletic director, in the statement. “He has very mild symptoms, so this test will not be categorized as a false positive. He will follow all appropriate guidelines and isolate at home.”
Saban had previously tested positive before Alabama’s game against Georgia but was asymptomatic and subsequently tested negative three times, a sign that the positive test could have been a false positive. He returned to coach that game.
It’s unlikely Saban will be able to coach in person during Saturday’s Iron Bowl against Auburn, given the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for quarantining after testing positive and with symptoms. Neither Saban nor the university had spoken about that possibility as of Wednesday morning.