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05/25/2012 – From The Office of Senator Roger Bedford – Special Edition Capitol Report – Reapportionment Update

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From the office of Roger Bedford -Special Capitol Report – Regarding Reapportionment

As you know every ten years the Alabama Legislature must reapportion itself based on the new census data. As your Senator I have served under 3 reapportionment legislative sessions dealing with the reapportionment of Alabama House and Senate districts. I’m sad to report to you that I have never seen such a racially prejudice divided and politically motivated reapportionment than the one rammed through by the GOP Super Majority in the Alabama Senate and Alabama House. When legislative reapportionment is done it is important to recognize community of interest as well as county lines and also the racial make-up of a Senate and House district.

This new Super Majority GOP coalition in the Senate and House broke all those rules, and in my opinion, broke the law. First, they adopted the Senate rules two years ago and appointed all the members to the reapportionment committee. The rules set fourth how committee hearings were to be conducted and when reapportionment bills were to be introduced. It in fact required a reapportionment bill to be filed ten days in advance of consideration by the Alabama Legislature. It also required hearings for the public. Some of you may recall that when one Republican Senator and one Republican House member came to Fayette, they had no maps, no district lines and no outlines of what the Senate district might be to show to the public so they simply listened to comments. All of those comments from citizens and local elected officials were in part about the fact that Fayette, Marion and Lamar Counties have become communities of interest both with economic development ties, sports ties, family ties and with churchs. In fact the C3 is formed around those three counties for economic development efforts.

The Republican Super Majority reapportionment committee was required to file a plan ten days in advance, they missed the deadline and filed it only five days in advance. When they missed their own dead line which they set and controlled, this mistake then caused the State to incur over a half of a million dollars in tax payers expenditure for a special legislative reapportionment session. You will recall that at the beginning of the year the Republican’s boasted about the fact that they would save money by having a special session within the time frame of a regular session which would have been perfectly legal. However, they failed to do what they promised and as such we had to have a special session of the Alabama Legislature.

Despite the fact that there was numerous testimony and documents filed by myself and others showing the community interest of Fayette, Marion and Lamar Counties as well as that of the Shoals in the Northern part of our district the Republican’s disregarded all of that. They rammed through a plan which totally set aside the boundaries that have existed since 1982 as it relates to Fayette, Marion and Lamar County. This new Republican Super Majority put Lamar County in with a Senator out of Tuscaloosa. The new GOP Super Majority put Fayette County in with a Senator out of Jasper. They then put the Eastern half of Marion County in with a Senator from Cullman. I was totally opposed to this effort to destroy the unity and community of interest as well as the county lines of these three counties. I was also opposed to taking Haleyville out of our senate district and changing the other boundaries. It made no sense to do this. In fact it will hurt our area because our smaller rural counties, I’m afraid, will be of little interest to Senators so far away.

On the final night of the Legislative session the Republican Super Majority broke the law of the Alabama Constitution of 1901 when it ignored a Senators right to have a bill read at length. The Constitution of Alabama requires all Legislation to be read for a third time, that is for final passage, at length. The only way you can get around this law is to have unanimous consent of the Senate and\or the House of Representatives. With six Democratic Senators objecting, the Republicans ignored the law and said no one was onjection and gaveled through the reapportionment plan at 4 a.m Thursday morning. It was blatant political gerrymandering and violation of the rules by a heavy GOP hand. It was a low point in the Alabama Senate.

When I left the Capitol at 5:30 a..m Thursday morning I went to the hotel, took a shower, packed my bags and headed back to work towards Fayette County. It was a bitter sweet occasion as we were announcing the ribbon cutting on a brand new industrial spec building at the Fayette industrial park. It has been my pleasure to work with Senator Shelby, Probate Judge Oswalt and Fayette County Commission along with the Mayor and City Council and former Representative William Thigpen and now Representative Dan Boman to see that the important dream of an industrial park containing a spec building ready for occupancy and new jobs was a reality. It was also heart warming to see and hear from so many local officials and citizens upset and outraged about the fact that Fayette, Marion and Lamar Counties were being torn apart by the Republicans. The building however, will be a beacon for new jobs for our area. For the past twenty years we have all been working together to get ready for Corridor X becoming I-22, now I’m sad to say that in the year in which it will open these counties will be torn apart and these three counties will be represented by four different State Senators.

House State Representative lines were also altered radically. The Republicans simply said it was their goal to further take over the State for Republicans and to attack Democratic Senators. Their goal should have been to keep community of interest in tact, break as few county lines as possible when drawing new districts and get a Legislature that is willing to create jobs and wants to move Alabama forward not further divide it by political party.

After leaving Fayette I drove to Vernon to hand out several grant checks with Representative Boman to some very worthy recipients. After that I traveled up to Sulligent, Hamilton, Hackleburg and then Russellville. Along the way people were calling, texting, Facebooking as well as sending me letters and cards in the mail expressing their outrage at what the Republican Party is doing to our senate district. I’m sad to report to you that they also did it to every Democratic district in the state. They over packed the traditional African American legislative districts by taking the percentage of African Americans demographics up from 50% to 75% or more in some cases thus over packing the districts. They also diminished the influence of minority voters by reducing five State Senate districts which had a white Senator serving by reducing the African American population from 30% to less than 5 %. When someone has approximately 30% of their district of a particular mind set ,race or have a view about an issue an elected official better be responsive and understanding to that view if they want to continue to serve and represent all the people. When you reduce that percentage down to 5% or less, the significance of that vote is also reduced and that is wrong, plus, I believe against the law.

So let me say this to the great voters who have been kind enough to let me work for them in this Senate District, I will continue to work hard for you. I know the good people of this District and the important projects that we are working on including highways, water, better schools, and the creation of new jobs. I will continue to work with you at the local, county , state and federal levels to see that these important goals are accomplished. It is my belief that the reapportionment plan will not stand the muster of the U.S. Justice Department nor the Federal Courts. However, should these lines be altered, I will continue to represent you even if the courts and\or this Republican Super Majority are successful in their efforts to rip apart these counties. You may rest assured that I will continue to work with you to help build our dream of a better Alabama whether you are physically in my senate district or not.

Hope all of you remember our brave Veterans over this Memorial holiday and have a fun but safe weekend.

As always if I can be of any assistance to you do not hesitate to give me a call.

Roger H. Bedford, Jr.

Alabama State House
11 S. Union Street, Suite 738
Montgomery, Alabama 36130
Phone 334-242-7862 ,
Fax 334-242-9202
Russellville Office
P.O. Box 370
Russellville, Alabama 35653
Phone 256-332-6966
Fax 256-332-6967
Email:  senbedford@aol.com
Website:  www.RogerBedford.com

Amanda Hovater
Assistant
Roger H. Bedford, Jr.
Senate Minority Leader
Roger Bedford & Assoc., P.C.
Attorney at Law
P.O. Box 370
Russellville, Alabama  35653
(256) 332-6966 – Direct Line Russellville Office
(256) 332-2880 – Law Firm
(256) 332-6967 – Facsimile
(334) 242-7862 – Montgomery Office
AHovater.RBA@gmail.com

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