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Bills setting legislative districts can be read aloud for hours on end. This would change that.

Chip Brownlee

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A robotic voice that reads long bills at length in the Alabama Legislature might have one less job if one lawmaker has anything to say about it.

When lawmakers were working to approve redrawn legislative districts in 2017 after a federal court ruled them unconstitutional, the robotic voice echoed through the halls of the Alabama Statehouse for nearly 16 hours.

The bill to shift about 70 House districts was being read at length at the call of Democratic lawmakers hoping to delay its approval.

The robotic machine chugged along, reading the 580-page bill and its more than 80,000 blocks and tracts until the GOP-held House passed the redistricting measure by a vote of 70-30.


A section from the 580-page 2017 House reapportionment bill, which was read at length for nearly 16 hours.


“The machines are reading in this drone of a voice,” said Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, who is sponsoring a constitutional amendment that would do away with redistricting bills being read at length.

“You can listen to it, and even if you pay attention to it, you can’t make any sense out of it,” McClendon said. “You have no clue what they’re talking about.”

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No other legislation could move while the full bill was read. Things stalled. But no one could go home for a nap. The lawmaker who requested the reading could withdraw their request and a vote would immediately follow.

The process in the House — where debate in 2017 was most contentious — ended up eating almost two legislative days as the 2017 legislative session neared its end.

Republicans were irritated with the Democrats’ tactics, but the minority felt they had no other option after the majority voted to cloture debate.

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“If you were in that situation and did not have a voice, you would use every tool you had to try to get your message out,” Rep. Mary Moore, D-Birmingham, said at the time. “We used the tools we had to try to get the message out.”

The bill redrawing Senate districts killed nearly a full legislative day in that chamber, too. It also ended up passing. The courts later upheld the redrawn districts after forcing lawmakers to make new maps following a ruling that the original districts, drawn by GOP lawmakers in 2011, were improperly based upon race.

Three of the districts were Senate districts and nine were in the House.

With less than two years until lawmakers will again be in the position of redrawing Alabama’s legislative and congressional districts after the 2020 census, one lawmaker is already looking ahead.

 McClendon, has introduced a constitutional amendment to end the practice of bills being read at length.

As things stand now, no vote is needed to initiate the reading process. If a lawmaker requests it prior to a vote, the electronic reading machine is turned on.

But the reality is that the process is enumerated in Alabama’s Constitution, and it’s been that way for decades.

“I’m sure it was a practical request in 1901,” McClendon said. “They didn’t have copy machines. They probably computers or laptops. I would imagine there were some legislators who made it to Montgomery who weren’t that accomplished at the written word anyway. But it’s not a good idea now.”

Democrats regularly use the procedural tactic to delay votes on all sorts of bills, but reading at length is most effective — and most time-consuming — with reapportionment bills, which typically run hundreds of pages.

“The only reason in the modern world to have a bill to be read at length would be to extract some kind of punishment on the people who are supporting the bill,” McClendon said. “Because it does not change the outcome at all.”

A reading of a full-length House district reapportionment bill could take upward of 25 hours, McClendon said. A full Senate bill could take between 12 and 14 hours.

“The outcome is not affected by reading the bill at length, and it does not enlighten anyone as to the content of the bill,” McClendon said.

McClendon’s bill would only affect reapportionment legislation.

“I wanted to do a bill that would include all reading at length but I thought I would just focus on this one issue and maybe someone else can come up with another one to get rid of all reading at length,” McClendon said.

Reapportionment, though often considered a boring subject to the public and legislators alike, is one of the most important acts of the Legislature. They not only decide state school board and state legislative districts, but they also decide the alignment of the state’s congressional districts.

The Black Caucus, who challenged the 2011 lines in the lawsuit, successfully argued in Federal court that the GOP packed black voters, who often support Democrats, into a handful of districts to limit the Democrats’ power.

Democrats, who were largely concerned about House districts in Jefferson County, felt they weren’t given enough say in the process of redrawing the 12 legislative districts found to be gerrymandered, so they resorted to reading at length.

“It’s not fun sitting in here reading where you’re not being productive,” Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, said at the time. “We’d rather be productive, but the only thing we were asking for is fairness. You have just a few people from one little area basically tie up this whole Legislature. So you might as well not have representation from across this state.”

McClendon said in an interview with APR that he understands concerns about minority influence, but that reading at length never changes the outcome.

“It’s not much of a tool if it doesn’t fix anything or change anything. It’s just a delay tactic,” McClendon said. “If it were taking away something useful from the minority in expressing their position on something or getting something done, I would feel different about it. I don’t want to do that.”

The reality, though, is that the move does give the minority some leverage, especially at the end of the legislative session when the session has a time limit and other unrelated bills may still need attention.

The next U.S. Census will be held in 2020. The Legislature will receive data for reapportionment in the early part of 2021, and it will need to redraw the lines by election time in 2022.

The process could be even more contentious in 2021 if Alabama were to lose a congressional seat. If lawmakers have to draw out one of the state’s seven congressional districts, a serious battle could ensue.

If McClendon’s bill makes it out of committee to the floor, it would require approval by both chambers. At that point, it would be put on the 2020 primary ballot. Voters would be able to decide whether or not to end the practice.

 

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Economy

Likely Republican primary voters reject Poarch Creeks “winning” plan

Bill Britt

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A survey of likely Republican primary voters obtained by APR shows that a majority do not support giving the Poarch Band of Creek Indians a monopoly over gaming in the state despite the tribe’s promise of a billion dollars.

Over the last several months, PCI has orchestrated a massive media blitz to convince Alabamians that they have a winning plan for the state’s future in exchange for a Tribal-State compact and exclusive rights to Vegas-style casino gaming.

The survey commissioned by the Republican House and Senate caucuses and conducted by CYGNAL, a highly respected Republican polling firm, found that only 34.1 percent of likely Republican primary voters are buying what the tribe is selling. On the contrary, nearly 50 percent of Republicans oppose the plan, with almost 40 percent voicing strong opposition.

Of those surveyed, females are against the plan by nearly 50 percent, with men weighing-in at almost 60 percent unfavorable to PCI’s proposal.

Perhaps most significant is that PCI’s monopoly plan was widely rejected in areas where the tribe already operates casinos. In the Mobile area, nearest Windcreek Atmore, over half of Republicans see a monopoly unfavorably. The same is true in the Montgomery area, where PCI has two gaming facilities.

Not a single big city surveyed in the state held a favorable view of PCI’s plan with Birmingham and Huntsville rejecting the tribal monopoly by almost 50 percent.

Very conservative, somewhat conservative and moderate voters didn’t view the plan as positive.

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Ninety-one percent of respondents said they defiantly would be voting in the upcoming Republican primary on March 3.

PCI has lavished money on media outlets throughout the state, garnering favorable coverage, especially on talk radio and internet outlets. The tribe has also spent freely on Republican lawmakers.

Perhaps some good news for PCI is that Republican primary voters believe that state legislators are more likely to represent special interests above the interests of their constituents.

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PCI lobbyists continue to push the tribe’s agenda at the State House in defiance of Gov. Kay Ivey’s call for no action on gaming until her study group returns its findings.

The survey found that Ivey enjoys a 76.3 percent favorability rating among likely Republican primary voters.

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Elections

Opinion | It’s time for Alabama Democrats to learn from Alabama Republicans

Josh Moon

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Democrats never seem to learn from Republicans. 

All around the country, and all around the state of Alabama, Democrats are still playing by the rules. Still listening to the cries and outrage from the other side. Still entertaining the idea that compromise and diplomacy are important to Republicans on some level. 

Still watching Lucy jerk that football away at the last moment. 

It’s time that stopped. 

It is time — actually, well past time — for Democrats to adopt the attitudes of their GOP colleagues, and just do whatever the hell you want to do. 

Whatever goal you set, go achieve it. Whatever policy is important, implement it. Whatever action you believe is right, take it. 

This is how Republicans have governed now for years. It is how they have wrestled control of the U.S. Supreme Court — just don’t hold a hearing for a duly appointed candidate — and how they have stolen elections — keep blocking attempts to secure elections. It is how they control half of Congress — thanks, gerrymandering! — despite representing nearly 20 million fewer people and how they have managed to offset a growing minority vote — put up every roadblock short of a poll tax. 

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In Alabama, it has how they adopted the AAA act to funnel tax money to private schools — just completely rewrite the bill in the dead of night — and how they passed the most restrictive abortion ban — just ignore promises and public opinion. It is how they have stopped attempts to pass gambling legislation — by straight up lying about the law — and how they have steadily cut into ethics laws — pretend that no one can understand the laws they wrote themselves — and how a House Speaker convicted on 12 felonies still isn’t in prison three years later — just don’t send him. 

They don’t care. 

About rules. About the law. About public perception. About basic decency. 

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And it’s time for Democrats, especially in Alabama, to adopt the same attitudes. 

Because if Republicans can behave this way to implement racist bills and roll back ethics laws and protect the income of the elites, then Democrats shouldn’t think twice about doing it to protect rural hospitals or new mothers’ health or workers’ rights or decent public schools. 

Now, this will be a big change for Democrats, so let me explain how this would look in practice, using the ongoing saga of Confederate monuments. 

Republicans shoved through an absurd bill last year that protects the state’s monuments to those who fought to enslave other human beings, and they’re shocked — shocked and outraged — that African Americans in Alabama might find it offensive to honor the men who enslaved their ancestors. 

The bill they passed last year was a dumb bill, right down to the portion which levied a fine on cities if those cities removed or damaged a monument. The bill completely screwed up the fines portion, failing to penalize cities for moving or damaging monuments over 40 years old and failing to place a per-day fine on those cities. Instead, the Alabama Supreme Court said the cities would be subject to one $25,000 fine. 

Birmingham has a monument that it desperately wants to move. It has already boarded up the monument in Linn Park, and the ALSC, in the same ruling, ordered the boards to come down. 

And this is the first opportunity for Mayor Randall Woodfin to approach this with a new attitude. 

Tear it down. 

Write out one of those big “Price is Right” checks for $25,000, hold a press conference and award that money to Steve Marshall like he just won at Plinko. 

At the same time, workers should be taking that monument apart piece by piece and moving it to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, where it can be viewed for its historical significance instead of serving to honor traitors and racists. 

No apologies. No shame. Don’t even entertain their complaints. 

A similar approach should be taken by the city of Montgomery in regards to its occupational tax, which Republicans are attempting to stop through legislative action. 

Montgomery is going broke, and it can’t put enough cops on the streets. Part of that is because every day about 70,000 people flood into the city to go to work, and then they leave each afternoon and spend their money in — and give their tax dollars to — surrounding cities and counties. 

Montgomery has to do something to offset the costs, so an occupational tax has been proposed. But just as quickly as it was, the ALGOP — the kings of handouts to people who don’t need them — passed a bill to block it. 

So, some creativity is required.

Instead of an occupational tax, pass a public safety tax. 

If you work within the city limits of Montgomery, but live outside of those city limits, your paycheck will now be taxed an extra 1% to offset the cost of the police and fire services that you might use while in the city every day. 

No apologies. No shame. Don’t listen to GOP complaints. 

It’s a shame that things have to be like this, but they do. Democrats have tried for decades to force rational debate and to promote the value of compromise. Those pleas have fallen on deaf ears, which have been attached to toddler-like brains that have justified atrociously selfish behaviors and awful governance. 

At this point, it has gone on so long and been so successful for Republicans, the only thing that might break through is a taste of their own medicine. 

Give it to them.

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House

McCutcheon not optimistic about passage of “constitutional carry” legislation

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, discussed gun legislation that could appear before the House of Representatives this year.

In past sessions, constitutional carry legislation has made it out of the Alabama Senate, but stalls in the House. This year, Rep. Andrew Sorrell, R-Muscle Shoals, is carrying the bill in the House. APR asked McCutcheon whether he anticipates it passing this time.

“The mood would tend to be the same that it was in the past,” McCutcheon said. “There is a bill out there now for a lifetime carry permit and a procedural check for a permit.”

McCutcheon said that under that bill a state database would be used for granting concealed carry permits instead of a local database. Each sheriff of each county would be doing things the same way by ALEA (the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency) being involved in this.

McCutcheon said that the House is “taking a very serious look at that bill.”

State Sen. Randy Price, R-Opelika, and State Representative Proncey Robertson, R-Mt. Hope, pre-filed the lifetime permit bill that would establish a cohesive and statewide management level process for administering and managing concealed weapons permits in the state of Alabama. The National Rifle Association has endorsed this legislation.

Robertson’s House version is HB39. It has been assigned to the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee where it is awaiting action. Price’s Senate version is SB47. It has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee where it is also awaiting action in committee.

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Currently, the application process and managing of applicants is different county by county. Some rural county sheriffs have issued concealed carry permits, sometimes called pistol permits, without doing background checks. This resulted last year in federal authorities revoking Alabama concealed carry permit holders from being able to buy firearms without having to go through the background check system.

The sponsors promise that this legislation would create a streamlined process of standards for Sheriff Departments to implement and will be monitored by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA). This bill creates a cohesive standard for background checks and will bring 21st century technology to Sheriff’s departments and all other law enforcement agencies across the state. Sheriff departments will now have access to electronic information of which all levels of law enforcement will have access to. It will also require municipalities to start reporting those that are convicted of domestic violence as well as Probate Judges to begin reporting individuals that have been involuntarily committed. Applicants will also now have the option to apply for a concealed weapons permit for one year, five years or a lifetime permit.

Sorrell told APR on Saturday that he opposes HB39/SB47 because it creates a statewide database with all of Alabama’s concealed carry holders.

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In the State of Alabama, it is a Class A Misdemeanor to carry concealed weapons without a permit.

Sorrell’s legislation, Constitutional Carry, would eliminate that crime altogether and give every Alabamian the constitutional right to carry a firearm concealed if they so choose.

State Senator Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa) has introduced Constitutional Carry legislation in the State Senate; SB1. That bill has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee where it awaits committee action.

SB1 would allow all Alabama citizens who have not had their gun rights revoked to carry firearms concealed without having to have a concealed carry permit. That legislation could not get out of committee in the Senate last year.

Sorrell told APR that there is momentum in the Alabama House of Representatives for Constitutional Carry and that he hoped to have as many as twenty cosponsors when he introduces his bill.

It is currently legal in Alabama to openly carry firearms without a permit, if your gun rights have not been taken away. A citizen can lose their gun rights due to a felony conviction, being declared mentally unfit by a probate judge, or a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction. While every citizen, who still has gun rights, may openly carry without a concealed carry permit; it is against the law to have a loaded handgun in a vehicle without a concealed carry permit.

Handguns must be unloaded and locked in a box or trunk out of reach. Similarly, if a person is openly carrying a handgun on their side, were to put a jacket on so that the gun was no longer visible that would also be a misdemeanor as they are now carrying concealed, unless they have a valid concealed carry permit allowing them to conceal their handgun. Persons with a concealed carry permit are allowed to have their gun on their person while riding in a motor vehicle or within reach like in the glove box, loaded or not. This does not apply to long guns (rifles and shotguns). All Alabama citizens, who still have their gun rights, may carry their shotgun or rifle with them in their vehicle, without having to obtain a concealed carry permit to exercise that right.

To get your concealed carry permit you must go to the sheriff’s department in your home county. The fee varies from county to county.

Twenty percent of adult Alabamians have a concealed carry permit, the highest rate in the country. The Alabama Sheriff’s Association have steadfastly opposed Constitutional Carry legislation. According to the National Association for Gun Rights, fifteen states, including Mississippi, have Constitutional Carry already.

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Elections

Maggie’s List endorses Jessica Taylor in 2nd Congressional District

Brandon Moseley

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Maggie’s List, a national political action committee dedicated to electing conservative women to federal office, endorsed Jessica Taylor in Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District.

Sandra B. Mortham is the Chairman of Maggie’s List and the former Florida secretary of state.

“Jessica Taylor is a proven leader who brings dedication and heart to Alabama,” Mortham said. “We know Jessica is the right person to represent Alabama’s Second congressional district in Washington because she respects the need for increased personal responsibility, fiscal conservatism, and will help move Alabama forward.”

“As the Alabama Chairwoman of Maggie List, I am proud that the organization has officially endorsed Jessica Taylor for Congressional District 2 here in Alabama,” said Alabama Chairwoman Claire H. Austin. “Jessica holds the conservative policy values as a fiscal conservative, less government spending, and more personal responsibility, and a strong national defense. Jessica will stand strong in Washington for our conservative Alabama values.”

Jessica Taylor thanked Maggie’s List for the endorsement.

“I am humbled to be chosen as one of the 12 conservatives women endorsed by Maggie’s List,” Taylor said. “I entered this race because I am sick and tired of far-left radicals like AOC, Ilhan Omar, and the rest of “The Squad”, thinking that Democrats can have a monopoly of the women’s vote. I put together the Conservative Squad to challenge that narrative and fight back. It’s an honor to have the support of Maggie’s List. I look forward to working with them and conservative women around the country to take back the house in 2020!”

The criteria for an endorsement from Maggie’s List includes electoral viability as well as a commitment to promoting fiscal conservatism, less government, more personal responsibility, and strong national security.

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To date, Jessica Taylor has been endorsed by Maggie’s List, Empower America Project, Susan B. Anthony List, former Arkansas Governor and GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, Winning for Women, VIEW PAC, Empower America Project, and former Second Congressional candidate Rep. Will Dismukes (R-Prattville).

Jessica Taylor is married to former State Senator Bryan Taylor. The Taylors live in Prattville with their four children. She has her own business which helps small businesses and nonprofits apply for government grants.

Incumbent Congresswoman Martha Roby is not seeking another term representing the Second Congressional District.

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