The Alabama Legislature passed the plan late Thursday, upon the recommendation of the redistricting committee chaired by Rep. Jim McClendon, R-Springville. The new district lines put virtually all of St. Clair County into the area represented by U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Anniston.
Talladega County remains in Rogers’ district, while Shelby County remains with Bachus.
“Under the plan done 10 years ago, St. Clair County was chopped up unmercifully, essentially diluting our influence with these elected officials,” McClendon said in a statement. “As you can see from the table, the new lines in St. Clair, Shelby and Talladega have been simplified.”
Some small changes did occur for the area’s representation on the State Board of Education. St. Clair County, which was shared by board members Betty Peters and Charles Elliott, is now solely Elliott’s; Talladega County is now entirely in the district of board member Stephanie Bell, who was sharing the county with Peters.
“It is going to be much easier to know who represents us in Washington, and at the State Board of Education,” McClendon said. “It will be easier for the voters, and it will be easier on the elected officials, as well. I was pleased that the final plan adopted by the Legislature treated these three counties with a little more respect than we received in the past.”
Local superintendents were unavailable for comment on the matter at press time, owing to a statewide conference. St. Clair County Commission Chairman Stan Batemon has expressed his approval of working with Rogers, a former Calhoun County commissioner and state representative.
“We created a relationship with Commissioner Mike Rogers back in 1986,” Batemon said. “Then Commissioner Mike Rogers became state Rep. Mike Rogers, who also was very close to our delegation and worked closely with them. I can’t imagine there wouldn’t be anything but a great relationship with Congressman Mike Rogers right off the bat.
“I guess the bottom line is, we have a great relationship with a great congressional delegation that’s in Washington right now.”
The Senate passed the plan 16-15 and the House approved it 57-45, with most of the opposition coming from the Democratic minority. The plan still must be approved by the governor and the U.S. Justice Department before taking effect for next year’s elections.
McClendon said the next task for the Legislature will be reviewing the area’s representation at the state level.
“Our next project is re-drawing the district lines for the Alabama House and Senate,” he said. “That proposal will be offered to the Legislature in 2012.
“Alabama, like most Southern states, has experienced a population shift from rural to urban areas. Legislators in rural districts may find themselves with geographically larger districts, and legislators near the cities may find their districts becoming more compact.
“These new lines must be in place for the 2014 election cycle. Legislators and voters alike will have to learn the new lines.”
McClendon said his committee is planning public hearing schedules for that issue, as well as in-depth reviews of the data for each district.
“By this time next year, the plan should be voted on by the House and Senate, signed by the governor, and submitted to the Justice Department for final review,” he said. “Once the plan is approved, the lines will remain fixed awaiting the next census in 2020.”
Contact Will Heath at email@example.com.