The Alabama House Committee on State Government gave favorable reports Tuesday to new district maps for the Alabama Senate and State Board of Education.
Both bills were put through for consideration on the floor by 9-4 votes along party lines.
There was minimal 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 are.
“I’ve not heard anybody talking about amending the Senate plan in the House,” Pringle said. “And nobody brought an amendment today (in committee) so I don’t see that happening.”
Felicia Scalzetti of the Alabama Election Protection Network spoke on concerns about a lack of competitive districts in the Senate and a public hearing process she said did not give ample opportunity for public involvement.
“Bessemer has eight residents in District 16,” Scalzetti said. “Birmingham has 29 residents in District 5. These are very small splits. It’s very troubling.”
Scalzetti listed off several other areas of concern, stating that the plan split around 70 municipalities. Her concerns about the public hearings echoed earlier comments from lawmakers, pointing out that most were held within working hours.
Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, said that the courts are going to be the true decider of the districts.
“We’re going to win this in court,” Rogers said. “I’m even more sure of that after last night. The courts have ruled over and over on not keeping counties whole. This is a slam dunk.”
After Rogers said he had spoken with Judge Myron Thompson about the lawsuit, Pringle questioned the comment, alluding that speaking with a federal judge about the case was improper.
Rogers said Thomspon is a good friend, and they were discussing the case off record.
“Yeah, you’re ‘off the record’ because you just admitted you’ve been discussing this with Myron Thompson,” Pringle said.
There was also some confusion as committee members noted they did not have State Board of Education maps to review. Pringle said it was an oversight on the committee’s part and print copies were brought to the meeting room for review before the committee voted.
When asked about contentions from Jefferson County delegates that some representatives of Jefferson County don’t live there, Pringle said that’s really a behind-the-scenes battle for a bigger piece of a slush fund for the Jefferson County legislators.
“They want to get people out so they can have that money,” Pringle said. “But we put people in there to get to deviation.”
Pringle once again reiterated that population centers have to be entered to reach deviation for more sparsely populated rural counties.
The bills will now move to the floor of the House when representatives return Wednesday at 1 p.m. Pringle said it “is above his pay grade” as to whether those bills will be approved by the House on Wednesday, but he “hopes so.”