Reapportionment top

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 3, 2001

priority in legislative session


Staff Writer

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

In just over a month, the Alabama Legislature will be back in action.

On Feb. 6, senators and representatives will begin the Regular Legislative Session and the hot topic of discussion will be reapportionment.

State Rep. Alan Boothe, D-Troy, said reapportionment "will lead the ticket" during the upcoming session.

Recently, the Census Bureau released early figures so state legislatures can begin the process of redrawing district lines.

Although those numbers indicate Alabama will neither gain nor lose a seat in the United States House of Representatives, the state’s seven congressional districts will change, Boothe told members of the Troy Rotary Club on Tuesday.

"The congressional districts will change and you can expect that to be a fight," Boothe said.

It is not only the congressional district that may change.

State Senate and House of Representatives districts are also likely to be redrawn.

For example, growth in the northern portion of Senate District 30 ­ including Butler, Crenshaw, Dale, Pike, Autauga, Elmore and Lowndes counties ­ all of which is represented by Sen. Wendell Mitchell, D-Luverne, will likely be altered.

That will, in turn, have an impact on Boothe because "unnesting" could affect with whom he works in the Senate.

Although reapportionment will be on every legislator’s lips, it is not an issue likely to be solved during the session.

"You’ll probably have to pay for a special session for the reapportionment issue," Boothe said, referring to taxpayers financing extra time for legislators in Montgomery.

But, it is an issue that needs to be settled and soon or the federal courts could get involved.

Boothe knows all too well how little sense some of the district lines mean. One example is the city of Ozark, which is the point where three separate legislative districts, including Boothe’s District 89, come together. Other districts, he said, have lines drawn down the middle of roadways and those on one side voting in one district and their neighbors across the street voting in another.

"Redistricting will be a big issue," Boothe said, adding he can almost guarantee his district will change "some."

However, how much change will not be known until the Census 2000 numbers are all reported in April.

"You’ll hear a lot about it," Boothe said of reapportionment. "You’ll probably get sick of it."

Reapportionment may be the hot topic of discussion, but there are other matters on the table, Boothe said.

Some of those include economic development, revision of the Constitution of 1901, prisons and county jails and, of course, education.

Regarding economic development, Boothe said "we’ve got to move forward because we’re losing industry."

Boothe illustrated that point by talking about an industry Pike County is working to recruit.

"We (with help from the state) thought we were doing great with $6 million, but Camden, Arkansas put $22 million on the table to recruit that industry," Boothe said.

"We have a labor force and it’s a trainable labor force," Boothe said.

Regarding revision of the constitution, Boothe said it needs to be done, but he is unsure of the best way to do that.

"The method of revision is where we’ve got to be careful," Boothe said. "Who would you trust to revise the constitution?"

Boothe said the state also "has got to do something about (state) inmates" being housed in county jails.

"It’s the state’s responsibility for these inmates," Boothe said.

Of education, Boothe said, "We’ve got a lot of requests for a few dollars. We’re chasing dollars that are already committed."

While Boothe expects to be quite busy during the legislative session, he will not be working to garner support for his own bills this time. Boothe has not been asked, as of yet, to introduce any local legislation.