Wood updates Kiwanis on legislature

Published 9:00 am Friday, August 25, 2023

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VALLEY — State Representative Debbie Wood was the guest speaker at Wednesday’s meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Valley. She talked about some of the legislative battles that take place when the Alabama Legislature in not in session.

A current fight involves a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that says the state must have two minority districts in Congress rather than the present one minority district. This is based on the fact that the state’s African-American population was 27 percent in the 2020 Census. The one-man-one vote rule in the U.S. Constitution means that congressional districts should be as equal in population as possible. The courts have also ruled that minorities must be equally represented as well. To reflect the 27 percent population, there should be two congressional districts in Alabama that have over 50 percent African American population, the high court reasoned. As it stands now, white people make up 73 percent of the state’s population but white Republicans make up 87 percent of the current legislative delegation.

If the legislature fails to create two districts with at least 50 percent African American population, the federal courts will step in and do it for them.

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Wood said that fights are constantly taking place over district lines. It’s not just for seats in Congress, there are also fights about representation in the state legislature. She represents District 38 in the state’s House of Representatives, which includes Chambers County. The way the current lines are drawn, the district has approximately 23,000 Chambers County residents and 27,000 from Lee County. It’s not easy for someone from Chambers County to be elected to that seat, but Wood has overcome the odds to be elected to it twice.

She’s a member of the Ways and Means Education Committee, the vice chair for the County and Municipal Government Committee, the Urban and Rural Development Committee, the Joint Transportation Committee and the Energy Council.

During legislative sessions, there are lots of days she is very late getting home.

“You never know when you are going to get home, given the traffic delays on I-85,” she said. “I have thoroughly enjoyed being in the legislature. The Lord put me in a good place to get a lot of wisdom.”

Wood helps people from her district who have a variety of problems.

“If someone needs help with a disability, I can get them help through Congressman Mike Rogers’ office.” she said. “There are all kinds of behind-the-scenes help that can be done for people.”

Wood said she knows life is a struggle for many people right now.

“Most people have to have more than one job to survive,” she said. “In some ways, we are spoiled. Everyone expects good roads and bridges, but they don’t like to pay the taxes to get them.”

Wood said she recently got an earful from a Chambers County constituent about how Opelika is getting a new elementary school and why this isn’t being done in Chambers County. There’s a simple reason. Chambers County just doesn’t have the tax base Lee County and the cities of Opelika and Auburn have. There’s a lot of Chambers County money being spent at Tiger Town and that won’t help build any new schools on this side of the county line.

When Wood was a county commissioner, Chambers County faced a bleak situation with the final shutdown of the textile industry in the local area. In February 2009, Chambers County’s unemployment rate was around 22 percent. People were looking to elected officials for help. Kia coming to nearby West Point offered an opportunity for job growth, but there was a cost to it. At the time, the county’s ad valorem tax was five cents on the dollar. The county commission raised it to nine cents on the dollar — the same rate charged by the cities at the time.