October 5, 2023

Federal Court Selects Congressional Map

A federal three-judge panel Thursday announced their final selection for Alabama's 2024 Congressional district map.

The decision follows a U.S. Supreme Court decision in June, which upheld the same panel's ruling last year that the state's current districts violate the Voting Rights Act. The Alabama Legislature approved a redrawn map in July, but it also was rejected by the federal judges.

Remedial Plan 3, selected by the panel, is one of three options submitted by a court-appointed special master. The judges said it most closely aligns with the Legislature's proposal.

"We do not have the authority to simply select the plan that outperforms all other proposed plans on any particular metric and order the Secretary to use that plan," the judges wrote. "We must give the Alabama Legislature as much deference as possible, and we may not disturb the policy choices it made in the 2023 Plan any more than is necessary to remedy the likely Section Two violation we found."

The Supreme Court ruling required Alabama's map to include two Congressional districts where Black voters have an opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice. In the final map, District 2 features a Black voting age population of 48.7%. The Black voting age population in District 7 is 51.9%.

The map splits six counties; preserves the cities of Birmingham and Mobile in single districts; and keeps all 18 Black Belt counties within Districts 2 and 7. Unlike proposed Map 1, the final map keeps Houston County intact.

"The Office of the Secretary of State will facilitate the 2024 election cycle in accordance with the map the federal court has forced upon Alabama and ordered us to use," said Secretary of State Wes Allen. "It is important for all Alabamians to know that the legal portion of this process has not yet been completed. A full hearing on the redistricting issue will take place in the future, and I trust Attorney General (Steve) Marshall to represent Alabama through that process. In the meantime, I will keep our state’s elections safe, secure and transparent because that is what I was elected to do."

Speaker Ledbetter Appoints Workforce Committee

Despite record-low unemployment, Alabama faces labor challenges due to low workforce participation. A new ad hoc committee by Speaker of the House of Representatives Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, seeks to reverse that trend.

"Improving our workforce is a prime area for Alabama to make significant gains," Ledbetter said. "As Speaker, I am proud of the work being done across both chambers and parties to bring meaningful solutions to the floor that will safeguard and accelerate the promise of Alabama’s economy today and for future generations. Over the coming months, I will begin working with an ad hoc study commission of House members to look at several of these issues and the best ways to address them. We will start the conversation on preventing Alabama’s looming labor shortage and identify avenues to prepare and retain qualified workers to fill high-paying jobs.

"After assessing the issues and working through several key topics in the next session, I intend to establish a formal committee to address the ongoing labor shortage problems over the coming years," he added.

Members on the study committee will be Rep. Reed Ingram, R-Pike Road, chairman; Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville; Rep. Donna Givens, R-Robertsdale; Rep. Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville; Rep. James Lomax, R-Huntsville; Rep. Barbara Drummond, D-Mobile; Rep. Mike Kirkland, R-Scottsboro; Rep. Bill Lamb, R-Tuscaloosa; Rep. Kelvin Lawrence, D-Hayneville; Rep. Curtis Travis, D-Tuscaloosa; Rep. Chris Pringle, R-Mobile; Rep. Matt Woods, R-Jasper; Rep. Wes Kitchens, R-Guntersville; Rep. Jim Carns, R-Birmingham; and Rep. Scott Stadthagen, R-Hartselle.

According to Ledbetter, Alabama currently has about 140,000 job openings and 48,834 unemployed workers. That equates to a deficit of 100,000 workers over age 16, or a labor force participation rate of 57% — one of the lowest in the entire country.

Read more from Ledbetter.

FarmPAC-Endorsed Candidates Headed to Runoffs

Alabama FarmPAC-endorsed candidates advanced Sept. 26 to runoff elections for two open Alabama House of Representatives seats.

Brad Cox, a graduate of Alabama Farmers Federation's Agricultural Leaders For Alabama program, finished in a statistical tie for first in the Republican primary for House District 16. The district includes all of Fayette County and portions of Jefferson and Tuscaloosa counties. The seat was previously held by Rep. Kyle South, R-Fayette. Cox will face Bryan Brinyark in an Oct. 24 runoff. The winner will move on to a Jan. 9 general election against Democrat John Underwood.

In Birmingham's House District 55, FarmPAC-endorsed candidate Travis Hendrix was the top vote-getter in the Democratic primary and will face Sylvia Swayne in an Oct. 24 runoff. There is no Republican challenger for the seat previously held by Rep. Fred Plump, D-Birmingham.

Attorney General Marshall Addresses Illegal Gambling on Capitol Journal

Attorney General Steve Marshall recently joined Todd Stacy on Alabama Public Television's Capitol Journal to discuss gambling and other topics.

Marshall called for stricter enforcement of existing laws and tougher penalties for illegal gambling.

"I don't know that I would embrace this idea that we have it so we might as well legalize it," he said.

Marshall said the Legislature has the opportunity to deter illegal gambling by elevating what are currently misdemeanor offenses to felonies. He also pointed out illegal gambling is largely a geographic problem caused by a lack of local enforcement.

"Just because you create a regulatory body around the issue of gambling doesn't solve your local enforcement problem," he added.

In April, Marshall's office and federal authorities conducted raids at 14 illegal gambling halls in Jefferson County. Earlier this month, Jefferson County Sheriff Mark Pettway said he would shut down other illegal gambling facilities following a decision by the County Commission to not renew business licenses at those locations.

Click to watch Marshall's Capitol Journal interview.

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 Brian Hardin - Director, External Affairs Department

 Preston Roberts - Director, Agricultural Legislation

Russ Durrance - Director, State Legislative Programs

John Allen Nichols - Agriculture Counsel

Beth Chapman - Beth Chapman and Associates, LLC

Hayden Lasater - Administrative Assistant

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