No decisions made on state redistricting

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 20, 2001

Staff Writer

It appears, once again, the Alabama Legislature will end a special session without accomplishing the top agenda item.

As the final minutes ticked away Wednesday, the Senate and House of Representatives were still at odds over a new congressional district map for Alabama.

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The big obstacle is a disagreement between the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.

Many of the Democratic legislators are content with the 5-2 GOP majority in Congress. They are also well aware any plan they approve is likely to be challenged in court.

State senators have approved a district plan that would leave most of the district lines as they are. The exceptions are in the Second and Third Districts.

Pike County is in the Third Congressional District represented by Republican Terry Everett.

Everett’s district is made up of Autauga, Barbour, Bullock, Butler, Coffee, Conecuh, Covington, Crenshaw, Dale, Elmore, Geneva, Henry, Houston, Montgomery and Pike counties.

Under the Senate’s plan, Pike County is in the Third Congressional District being vacated by Bob Riley, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor. Riley’s district is made up of Bill, Calhoun, Chambers, Chilton, Clay, Cleburne, Coosa, Lee, Macon, Randolph, Russell, St. Clair, Talladega and Tallapoosa counties.

"I couldn’t support that," Boothe said of putting Pike County in the Third Congressional District. "I’m not going to support a plan that takes Pike County out of the Second Congressional District."

Boothe said the only option is to "let the courts decide or come together in compromise" and the latter did not look like it was going to happen.

"I just don’t know what the answer will be," Boothe said.

Alabama’s seven congressmen thought they had the answer and all signed a letter to Speaker of the House Seth Hammett outlining that plan.

Under the plan presented by the congressional delegation, Everett would lose a portion of Montgomery County to make up for the shifts in population. The total population in the district, according to census figures, is 635,300.

Outside of the two districts of concern, the plan would have split Clarke County between the First and Seventh Districts; altered the portions of Bibb County going to Districts 3 and 6; taken Pickens County out of District 4 and put it in District 7 and given a portion of Walker County to District 6, instead being kept whole in District 4; District 5 would lose Lawrence County and gain more in Morgan County.

As the letter to the Alabama Legislature pointed out, the current district lines were drawn in 1992 by a panel of three judges in a U.S. District Court. The legislature has not approved a Congressional redistricting plan in decades without intervention from federal courts.

"We believe the current districts, and those we are proposing in the consensus plan, are politically competitive and serve the needs and interests of Alabama’s citizens," the letter states.

Boothe admitted the Alabama Legislature "got tied up on too many other things" during the special session that was called by the governor to deal with drawing congressional and state school board districts, on which the Senate was stuck.

During this week, legislators gave final approval on a $70 million bond issue for use in turning Gulf State Park into a convention destination. The convention hotel was limited to 300 rooms.

Lawmakers also gave the nod to a constitutional amendment that would assure voters the final say on any rewrite of the Constitution of 1901.