Congressional map ruling a ‘bombshell’ for Alabama lawmakers


Alabama lawmakers during the 2021 legislative session.

Miranda Fulmore, WBHM

When Alabama lawmakers are in session, the legislature is usually where the action takes place. But this week, the big happening came from a panel of federal judges. They blocked Alabama from using its new congressional maps based on the 2020 census lawmakers approved last year. The judges ordered the legislature to redraw the maps to include a second district with a significant number of minority voters.

“It was nothing short of a bombshell really. This is a monumental ruling and it’s going to have political ramifications far and wide,” said Todd Stacy, host of Alabama Public Television’s Capitol Journal and publisher of the Alabama Daily News.

There was nothing shocking about the other major news from Montgomery. Lawmakers finished a special session Thursday to appropriate more than $772 million in federal COVID relief funds.

Stacy offered an update on this week’s legislative work.

Congressional Maps

Legislative reaction to the ruling largely fell along party lines with Democrats celebrating. Republicans were not happy.

“They drew these maps according to what they thought the law required and the rules were and feel like it’s unfair,” Stacy said.

The court has told lawmakers to redraw the maps by Feb. 11 or the judges would step in and make changes themselves. It’s not clear which route legislators would prefer.

“Right now, I’d say that’s about 50/50 either way,” Stacey said.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall has appealed the ruling to an appellate court and the U.S. Supreme Court. In the meantime, the ruling throws a wrench into the usual work of the legislature. Redistricting is a complicated process and Todd suggested legislators might as well ask the governor to call another special session to take up the issue. The overturned maps already came out of a special session in the fall which Todd described as “quite a slog.”

“I don’t think you have a lot of legislators, especially in the majority, the Republicans, who are eager to dive right back in to redistricting,” Todd said. “They’re kind of tired of all that.”

COVID Special Session

In contrast, it was smooth sailing for a package of bills authorizing spending more than $772 million in COVID relief funds. That money will largely go to broadband expansion, sewer and water infrastructure and reimbursing health care facilities.

Discussion around those measures was largely bipartisan.

“Republicans and Democrats, they are both kind of singing “Kumbaya” at the moment on this federal relief money which is pretty significant,” Stacy said.

About one billion dollars of additional federal COVID money will arrive later this year but not until after the regular session ends. Still, lawmakers have already started to think about where that money might go.

Todd expects addition reimbursements for hospitals and nursing homes. Improvements to mental health care facilities are another possibility.

“You can imagine lots of agencies have similar types of requests,” Stacy said.


What to know about Alabama abortion rights after SCOTUS overturns Roe v. Wade

The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, ending the constitutional right to an abortion. Here’s what the decision means for the Gulf South region.

Alabama OKs $725M bond sale to build 2 supersize prisons

That money will be added to $135 million in state funds and $400 million in pandemic relief dollars that the state already agreed to put toward the project.

Britt wins tumultuous Alabama Senate race scrambled by Trump

Katie Britt won the Republican nomination for Senate in Alabama Tuesday, defeating six-term Rep. Mo Brooks in a primary runoff after former President Donald Trump took the unusual step of rescinding his initial Brooks endorsement.

2022 Alabama primary runoff results

Republicans will be choosing between Katie Britt and Roy Moore as their nominee for U.S. Senate. Democrats will pick a nominee for governor between Yolonda Flowers and Malika Sanders-Fortier.

Voters go back to the polls Tuesday for primary runoffs

Party runoff ballots are fairly light for Tuesday’s election. But at the top of the Republican ballot is the nomination to the U.S. Senate. At the top of the Democratic ballot is nomination to the governor’s race.

More 2022 Legislative Session Coverage