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Special session continues: Maps move to House, Senate floors

By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Alabama lawmakers continue their special session today as the House and Senate meet to take up redistricting maps advanced through committees Friday.

The proposed maps for Congress, state school board and state legislature remained unchanged in committees and passed on party line votes. The House will take up its own map, along with the state’s congressional districts. The Senate will take up its map and the state school board districts.

In the House Government Affairs Committee, some current and potential GOP lawmakers raised concerns about changes to their districts — a debate that could carry on to the floor today. Democrats expressed concerns about a lack of representation for minority communities in the congressional map, but most of the debate was over two Republican state House districts.

Rep. Charlotte Meadows, R-Montgomery, told committee members her district, House District 74, would become Democratic leaning under the new map and the “core” of that community has been changed completely.

“This isn’t about Black and white, it’s not really about Democrat or Republican, it’s about keeping Montgomery’s core District 74 the same,” Meadows said. “…If we’re going to be talking about keeping cores intact, this one has not been.”

The proposed map makes HD74 52% Black and 40% white, according to information given to legislators. The district under the 2017 map was 67.2% white and 25.8% Black.

Committee Chair Rep. Chris Pringle, R-Mobile, defended the map saying that the districts were drawn initially with only population size being considered and then racial demographics were looked at later.

“I cannot undo the demographic shifts that have occurred in Montgomery County or around the state because there are other members who are upset about where people have moved and the demographic shifts,” Pringle said.

He further explained that House districts were drawn with the intent of keeping the population deviation around plus or minus 5%. District 74 has a deviation of -1.05%, meaning that district lost 502 people in the new map from how it was drawn under the 2017 maps.

Meadows also said she has been trying to get a new proposed House map drawn that would take into account her concerns but said the fast-paced nature of this session is preventing her from doing so.

Pringle also said that an analysis of Meadow’s proposed changes to the map is currently happening but the likelihood of a completely new House map being approved is now very unlikely.

Even if just one district was to be changed, that would mean an entire new statewide map would have to be drawn and submitted, which has to be submitted at least 10 days before the committee meets, according to committee rules, Pringle said.

Multiple members of the public also spoke to the committee about HD74.

Former Rep. Perry Hooper spoke in defense of Meadows.

“I think it’s wrong what this plan has done, by taking about 10 precincts out of her district, I can understand about having to do some and make it fair but I wish you would just find a way to help her and help those people in that district,” Hooper said.

Greg Pool, the chair of the Montgomery County Republican party, told committee members that he thinks HD74 has been drawn drastically different.

“The way that it was drawn, I don’t see the basis for it,” Pool said.

A similar concern arose during Friday’s meeting about House District 88 – but the complaint came from a candidate, not a current legislator.

Josh Pendergrass, a lawyer and former communications director for Gov. Kay Ivey, has announced that he is running for the Republican nomination for the district that has for decades contained the city of Prattville. But under the proposed map that splits Prattville, he would no longer live in the district he’s running for.

Pendergrass told members he was not only concerned about his ability to run but also claimed that it would be splitting up that district’s “core” community.

“It is very likely that there won’t even be a single representative who actually lives in the city of Prattville, based on these maps,” Pendergrass said.

Pringle assured Pendergrass that the reapportionment committee drew the new maps without any idea as to where Pendergrass lived. Pringle explained further after the meeting that it was simply due to Prattville’s growth in population over recent years.

“All this goes back to deviations and populations,” Pringle said. “I have to find population to get these districts and do their deviation.”

During a meeting of the Joint Legislative Reapportionment Committee last week, Pringle assured Democrats that an accommodation had been made to make sure Montgomery’s House District 76 would include Penni McClammy, daughter of the late Rep. Thad McClammy, who is running for her father’s old seat.

Rep. Barbra Boyd, D-Anniston, asked Pringle during the meeting what is the actual definition of a community’s “core” and whether a district’s “core” consists of a city or town where an incumbent lives or where the majority of that district’s population lives.

Pringle did not have an answer to that but said he would be seeking out the legal definition.

The House and Senate convene at 1 p.m. today.

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