By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Thursday, May 11, 2017, the Alabama House of Representatives met for a rare 14 and a half hour session. Most of that time however the Legislators were forced to listen to a robot reading the House Redistricting plan word for word. The Alabama Legislature has an arcane provision in the rules allowing any legislator to require that a bill be read at length.
On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Representative Thomas Jackson (D-Thomasville) invoked the archaic provision after House Democrat efforts to filibuster the House redistricting plan, prepared by the Joint Committee on Reapportionment. It took the robot 18 hours to read the bill;. Legislators were forced to listen to the monotonous text of the bill, because House rules require that there be a quorum present.
Rep. Jackson released a statement later, “We have worked diligently over the course of this session to work with our Republican colleagues in an effort to accomplish things for the people of Alabama. We have sponsored and co-sponsored bills that reflect this bipartisan spirit and have remained focused on the issues that matter to our citizens instead of reveling in the scandals plaguing their party or their internal dysfunction.”
Rep. Jackson continued, “Yet, the Republicans have chosen a different path, taking us away from concerns like education, jobs, and infrastructure. They have drawn a map that reflects the most narrow of interests, to preserve an unconstitutional map, and they did it hiding in the backrooms rather than allowing for any bipartisan participation or public review. In fact, it was only one week ago today that elected representatives on our side got our first look at this map.”
Jackson said, “Like our demand that the special election occurs in short order, we believe redistricting must be conducted consistently with the governing state and federal law. This Republican backroom map is fundamentally flawed and promises more litigation.”
Jackson justified his decision to invoke the seldom used rule, “We stood up and called for a reading of this unsavory backroom redistricting bill to assure some transparency exists in this process and to send a message to Republicans that all Alabamians expect and deserve an opportunity to determine who represents them in the legislature, not the other way around.”
Jackson concluded, “We cannot and will not sit by and allow policies that will harm our state, cost us millions of dollars in litigation, and work against our collective benefit to pass without debate. We will fight whatever way we can.”
Republicans were not impressed with Jackson’s delay tactics and easily passed the House redistricting plan.
State Representative Mack Butler (R-Rainbow City) said on social media, “Dems are filibustering once again. Never ever vote for a Democrat. We need to pass a budget to run our State and schools. They are the ones who went to court to redraw the districts and they aren’t happy with what they are getting this time either. The people of the State are on to them and their party is in decline.”
The Legislature returns to action today and both House still have to pass the other house’s redistricting plans. It is not known at this time whether the Democratic minority will continue their delay tactics or not.
Democrats are vowing to take the redistricting plan back to court and are asking the courts to order special elections and a redistricting prepared by a court appointed special master.
It appears unlikely that there is enough time left in 2017 for the State to hold Special Elections this year and there would still be a State election in 2018.