The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

5 days ago

Flowers: Alabama will miss Richard Shelby immensely

(Richard Shelby/Facebook, YHN)

In only 21 short months, at the close of 2022, Alabama will lose the greatest senator in our state’s history. Those of us who are political historians will acknowledge Richard Shelby as Alabama’s most pronounced political emissary in Washington.

In my 2015 book, “Six Decades of Alabama Political History,” I have a chapter titled “Alabama’s Three Greatest Senators,” which features Lister Hill, John Sparkman and Richard Shelby. Lister Hill and John Sparkman were icons but, if I were writing that chapter today, Richard Shelby would be alone as the premier “Giant of Alabama.”

Hill served in the Senate for 30 years and Sparkman for 32 years. Shelby eclipsed Sparkman’s record two years ago, and at the end of his term, will set the bar at 36 years. It should also be noted that Senators Shelby, Hill and Sparkman served nearly a decade or more in the U.S. House of Representatives. Senator Shelby is now in his 43rd year in Washington.

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Seniority is king and paramount in assessing power under the Capitol dome. However, what you do with that seniority is what makes one great. The average voter and citizen of our beloved state do not comprehend the magnitude of the federal largesse that Richard Shelby has brought home to the Heart of Dixie. His strength, power and resolve have resulted in countless improvements to every corner of our state. It would take volumes and annals to chronicle the federal dollars that Shelby has funneled to Alabama throughout his career.

Beginning with the coastal area of Mobile and the Docks, to the Wiregrass and Fort Rucker, to Montgomery’s Maxwell and Gunter; to UAB in Birmingham, and finally Shelby’s impact on the growth and prosperity of the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, are incomprehensible. Folks, when you combine all of the aforementioned economic engines, we are not talking about a couple million extra federal dollars but more like hundreds of millions of federal dollars.

Shelby has been the savior of these centers of economic growth and employment in our state. The two most important, UAB and Redstone Arsenal, owe their growth and prosperity to Shelby’s ability to bring home the bacon.

He has had the most profound impact over the last few years as chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee. He very adroitly kept in conjunction the chairmanship of the Subcommittee on Defense Appropriations. If you do not think defense dollars are important to Alabamians, simply ask the folks in the Wiregrass and Montgomery’s River Region what Ft. Rucker and Maxwell/Gunter mean to them. Also, Huntsville would be a sleepy little cotton town if it were not for the Redstone Arsenal.

While Shelby was not in the U.S. Senate when these facilities were placed in Alabama, you can bet your bottom dollar that they have flourished, prospered, and more than likely survived because of Richard Shelby.

Senator Shelby and I have been friends for over 35 years. I was a part of his inaugural 1986 triumphant election to the Senate. To know him personally is to see a man that you instantly recognize as a once-in-a-lifetime giant. He is extremely witty and personable with a keen lawyer’s mind that analyzes your words as soon as they come out of your mouth. Indeed, he was a brilliant and very successful lawyer before entering Congress. If he had not gone into politics, he could have become a billionaire as a Wall Street lawyer.

As Shelby eloquently said in his retirement statement, there is a time for every season. He will be 87 in May of this year and 88 at the end of this term. He deserves some private years. He enjoys time with his wife and best friend of over 60 years, Annette. He will enjoy being at home in his beloved Tuscaloosa and hunting occasionally with his buddies, Joe Perkins and Judge Coogler. Maybe he will have time to reminisce with some of us who like to share old Alabama political stories.

In closing, there will be plenty of time to observe the fray that will be developing to follow the legend of Richard Shelby, but no one will ever fill his shoes. As I traversed the state doing television interviews the day of Shelby’s announcement, I became melancholy and almost tearful for Alabama’s sake.

While driving between Montgomery and Birmingham, I had a lengthy telephone conversation with the lady who has been Shelby’s real chief of staff, confidant and gatekeeper his entire career in Congress. She very aptly told me to tell the people of Alabama that whoever follows Shelby, even if brilliant, will be 20 years in waiting and learning before they will be able to wield any power. She is correct. Seniority is king in Washington.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

3 weeks ago

Flowers: Legislative session begins

(@SteveFlowers/Twitter, Wikicommons, YHN)

As the 2021 regular legislative session begins, you will see new leadership in the State Senate. Republicans dominate both chambers, overwhelmingly. They have a supermajority and dominate all issues and the budgeting process. They acknowledge the handful of Democrats, but really never give them any say in decision making. Therefore, the leadership is determined within the Republican caucus.

President Pro Tem Del Marsh decided in late November to step down from the all-powerful position of president pro tem of the Senate. Marsh had announced a few months earlier that he would not run for reelection to his Anniston based Senate Seat in the 2022 elections. Many Montgomery insiders had foreseen this change in leadership for a while. The succession of State Senator Greg Reed of Jasper to the pro tem leadership of the Senate post was expected, as was the ascension of Senator Clay Scofield of Marshall County to the majority leader position.

Greg Reed’s appointment to the omnipotent president pro tem position is a natural transition for the Alabama Senate. He is a real leader and well respected by his colleagues. This progression has been in the works for a while. Reed is a perfect choice to lead the Alabama State Senate. He is very organized and meticulous with excellent planning and organizational skills.

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Senator Clay Scofield is one of the most likeable people in the Senate. He is very jovial and friendly but deceptively effective. He is a young, prominent farmer from Sand Mountain and he will be a great majority leader.

First-term State Senator Donnie Chesteen of Geneva/Houston is doing a yeoman’s job working to expand rural broadband in the state. He served eight years in the House before moving to the Senate in 2018.

The Democrats may have a superstar emerging in the Senate with Kirk Hatcher of Montgomery. Hatcher is in his first term in the Alabama House. When Senator David Burkette left the Montgomery Democratic Senate Seat last year, an open race to fill the seat began. Hatcher entered and led a six-person field with an impressive 48%. Second place finisher, veteran former Representative, John Knight, could barely muster 20%. Hatcher finished Knight off in a December runoff.

Kirk Hatcher joins his fellow Morehouse graduates, Mayor Steven Reed and Probate Judge J.C. Love, as the new, young leadership of Montgomery. This triumvirate cadre of leaders all grew up together in Montgomery. All three went off to Morehouse and came home to lead their city. They are an impressive threesome.

Democrats in the House and Senate would like to see early voting and absentee voting made easier in Alabama. However, their efforts to allow early voting or no-excuse absentee voting faces a dismal outlook in the GOP-controlled legislature.

The state saw an amazing record breaking 318,000 absentee ballots cast in the November election. The previous record was 89,000. The rules were loosened by Secretary of State John Merrill due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More than a dozen counties opened courthouses on Saturday for people to cast in person absentee ballots.

State Representative Chris England, who also chairs the Alabama Democratic Party, has opined that the long lines and extensive absentee ballot voting shows that people want opportunities to vote early. England and House Democratic Leader Anthony Daniels of Huntsville will push for change in the state voting laws that give Alabamians the opportunity to vote early, permanently. Daniels and England are young superstars to watch.

Chris England gets his leadership abilities honestly. His father is legendary Tuscaloosa Circuit Judge and former State Supreme Court Justice and University of Alabama Trustee John England. The apple does not fall far from the tree. Chris is also a prominent Tuscaloosa lawyer in his own right.

The House leadership will remain intact and continue their well-organized operating procedures. Speaker Mac McCutcheon is mild mannered, gentlemanly and well liked. He and the popular Republican Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter from DeKalb County work well together in organizing the super Republican Majority House of Representatives. Veteran Mobile legislator Victor Gaston is steady as pro tem. The glue that holds the House together and makes it successful are the two Budget Chairmen Steve Clouse of Ozark and Bill Poole of Tuscaloosa. Clouse and Poole have chaired the House Ways and Means Committees for almost a decade. They do an excellent job. Both budgets originate in the House.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

4 weeks ago

Flowers: Outstanding class of freshman state senators

(Wikicommons)

The 2021 regular legislative session begins next week. Over the years, I have observed some outstanding classes of freshman legislators. Some stand out more than others, and occasionally you have a very stellar class. My observation is that this freshman class of state senators is a class to remember and watch.

There are two Democrats and 10 Republicans in the freshman class of state senators who were elected and sworn into office in November  2018. The 10-member class of Republican state senators is a sterling group and includes Sam Givhan of Huntsville, Will Barfoot of Pike Road/Montgomery, Dan Roberts of Mountain Brook/Jefferson/Shelby, Andrew Jones of Cherokee/Etowah, Garlan Gudger of Cullman, Chris Elliott of Baldwin, David Sessions and Jack Williams both of Mobile, and Randy Price of Opelika, along with veteran state senator Tom Butler who has returned as a freshman after a decade hiatus from politics.

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This group may stay together in the Alabama State Senate for years to come. They are wise enough to realize that being one of 35 members of the state senate is more powerful and has more effect over public policy than aspiring to Congress or a secondary statewide office – especially, if you are one of the 10 Republican senators mentioned above. You are one of 25 who literally can control the mechanizations and budget of Alabama government. The only post more powerful is governor.

One of the leaders of this 10-member Republican freshman state senate class is Sam Givhan. He is witty and has dubbed the class in football recruiting terminology. According to Givan, there are seven true freshmen — Barfoot, Roberts, Gudger, Jones, Elliott, Price and him. Two junior college transfers, Jack Williams and David Sessions, who moved from the House to the Senate, and one redshirt, Tom Butler.

Senator Givhan is a lawyer by profession and served as chairman of the Madison County Republican Party prior to being elected to the senate. He could be considered a state senate legacy. His grandfather, the late Walter Givhan, Sr., was a legendary state senator from the Black Belt in the 1950s and 1960s.

Senator Will Barfoot won his seat convincingly in 2018. He worked his Montgomery/Elmore/Crenshaw district the old-fashioned way with diligent one-on-one politickin. It paid off. He carried every box in his state senate district. He can stay in that district until the cows come home. He was actually born and raised in Pike Road before it ever dreamed of being the fastest growing town in Alabama. Will is a lawyer by profession and a dedicated family man. He and his wife, Kathy, have five children.

Senator Dan Roberts of Mountain Brook is personable and honest. He has had a successful career in business and is serving in the state senate for the right reasons.

Senator Andrew Jones is one of the youngest members of this class. He has tremendous potential and is doing an excellent job. Similar to Barfoot, Andrew really worked his district and knows his constituents well.

Garlan Gudger is also young. He represents Cullman and a large part of northwest Alabama. He knows his folks in Cullman well. He has the potential to be a powerful senator. Cullman has produced some influential senators over the years, especially the St. John family.

Senator Chris Elliott may have the most promise and ability of this group. The Baldwin County area he represents is very different from the one he grew up in. He knows the needs and problems inherent in representing the fastest growing county in the state. He was a very effective county commissioner in Baldwin County prior to ascending to the senate.

Senator David Sessions of Grand Bay in Mobile County was one of the most popular members of the House before moving to the Senate. He and his brother operate a successful farming business. He knows his area of Mobile County and represents it well.

Senator Jack Williams of Mobile is quietly effective. He is unassuming and may be the most successful businesswise of this illustrious group of freshmen.

Senator Randy Price of Opelika/Lee County represents a sprawling East Alabama district. He is a former Lee County commissioner. His wife, Oline, is the revenue commissioner of Lee County.

Senator Tom Butler from Huntsville is the red shirt member of this class. Tom served for decades in the legislature during the 1980s and 1990s. We served together in the legislature during that era. I have never served with a more diligent and respected member. Tom is a pharmacist by profession and has not aged much over the years. He looks the same as when we were freshmen together in 1982.

This group of senators is not only outstanding, they are also affable and congenial.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

2 months ago

Flowers: Reapportionment will be paramount issue with legislature

(Pixabay, YHN)

As we close the book on 2020, we will close the door on national politics and get back to the basics: good old Alabama politics. That’s my game. It is what I know and like to write and talk about. Some say my prognostications and observations on Alabama politics are sometimes accurate. However, not so much so on the national level.

About a decade ago, there was an open presidential race and a spirited Republican battle for the nomination had begun. One of the entrants stood out to me. U.S. Senator Fred Thompson from Tennessee looked like the real thing to me. He was tall, tough, articulate, a movie star and a major player in the Watergate hearings. He looked like a president. He had a deep authoritative voice and gravitas and he had done a good job as a U.S. Senator from Tennessee. He actually had been born in Alabama.

So, I wrote a glowing column about how he looked like presidential timber. I went out on a limb and boldly predicted that he was going to win the Republican nomination and would go on to win the presidency. My profuseness was so pronounced that soon after the column was printed it was picked up by his campaign and his wife called me from Nashville and thanked me for my comments. A week later, Thompson dropped out of the race. So much for my presidential prognostications.

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The governor and legislature have a myriad of issues to tackle as the new year begins. A good many issues have to be addressed in the upcoming regular session, which begins in less than a month. The most prevailing problem is the fact that the U.S. Justice Department has sued the state for our overcrowded prisons. They convene in Montgomery the first week of February.

Many of the leaders of the legislature were hoping and somewhat expecting the governor to call a special session or two prior to the regular session. There are a lot of issues that have to be addressed and are delinquent due to COVID cutting the 2020 regular session in half, and there is concern that COVID could kill part of this year’s session. It will indeed make a precarious environment inside the statehouse. There are economic development bills that need passing and a ton of local bills legislators need to pass for their districts and then there are big ticket items like the prison problems.

Regardless of how important all of the substantive state issues are, nothing will be as paramount to legislators as reapportionment or the redistricting of their own districts. Self-preservation will prevail. The United States Census is taken every 10 years for a reason. The U.S. Constitution, and concurrently all state constitutions, mandate the count for one reason – to make all congressional and legislative districts have the same number of people. Thus the saying, “one person, one vote.” The power of the pencil is granted to the state legislature to draw their own lines and the power rests with them to draw the congressional lines for the state. If indeed, we do lose a congressional seat, then that task becomes exponentially more difficult than if we had our current seven districts.

Drawing their own lines will be their primary interest. All 105 House members and all 35 State Senate districts will be drafted and designed by the legislature. Being on the Reapportionment Committee is a plum position at this time. Like most pieces of a legislative puzzle, the resolution to a large degree is accomplished by and within a committee. Every district will be reconfigured to some degree because people do move around and some locales change more than others. Therefore, there becomes a ripple effect all over the state. The Republicans have control of the majority and will use the legislative pencil to retain their supermajority. However, protecting their own incumbency will supersede party loyalty. Although, both can probably be achieved.

This 2021 reapportionment is much more pressing than 10 years ago in 2011. They had the luxury of casually passing congressional lines for the 2012 elections. However, legislators did not run until 2014. So, the legislature passed a congressional map in 2011, and a legislative map in 2012 at a leisurely pace.

They are under the gun to get both done this year, because the legislature and congress run in 2022. Indeed, they will have to get both done by June of this year, because fundraising for the June 2022 primaries begins this June.

Look for there to be two special sessions between now and June – one for congressional redistricting and one for legislative reapportionment.

Let the games begin.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

2 months ago

Steve Flowers: We lost some good ones this past year

(Cubie Rae Hayes, WBRC Fox6 News, John Lewis, WVTM 13, Alabama Supreme Court and State Law Library, AIDB Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind/Facebook, Alabama Farmers Federation/Contributed, @JohnHMerrill/Twitter, Ballotpedia/Contributed, YHN)

As is my annual ritual, my yearend column pays tribute to Alabama political legends who have passed away during the year.

Sonny Cauthen passed away in Montgomery at age 70. He was the ultimate inside man in Alabama politics.  Sonny was a lobbyist before lobbying was a business.  He kept his cards close to his vest and you never knew what he was doing. Sonny was the ultimate optimist who knew what needed to be achieved and found like-minded allies with whom to work.  When he had something to get done, he bulldozed ahead and achieved his mission. Sonny was a yellow dog Democrat who believed in equal treatment and rewarding hard work. He was an avid outdoorsman and hunter and mentored a good many young men in Montgomery.

Another Montgomerian who will never be forgotten was Representative Alvin Holmes, who passed away at 81.  Like Sonny, Alvin was born and raised and lived his entire life in his hometown of Montgomery.  He, too, was a real Democrat and an icon in Alabama politics.  Alvin represented the people of Montgomery for 44-years in the Alabama House of Representatives.  He was one of the most dynamic and outspoken legislators in Alabama history, as well as one of the longest serving members.

I had the opportunity to serve with Alvin for close to two decades in the legislature.  We shared a common interest in Alabama political history.  In fact, Alvin taught history at Alabama State University for a long time.  He was always mindful of the needs of his district, as well as black citizens throughout the state.  Alvin was one of the first Civil Rights leaders in Montgomery and Alabama.  He helped organize the Alabama Democratic Conference and was Joe Reed’s chief lieutenant for years.

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Ironically, we lost another Civil Rights icon this year. John Lewis was born in rural Pike County in the community of Banks. After graduating from college, John joined the Dr. Martin Luther King as a soldier in the army for Civil Rights.  John was beaten by Alabama State Troopers near the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the infamous Bloody Sunday Selma to Montgomery march.  He became a Civil Rights legend in America.  He was one of Dr. King’s closest allies.  John became almost as renowned worldwide as a Civil Rights leader as Dr. King.  John moved to Atlanta with Dr. King and was elected to the U.S. Congress from Atlanta and served 33 years with distinction. Even though John was a national celebrity, he would take time out of his busy schedule to drive from Atlanta to rural Pike County to go to church with his mother at her beloved Antioch Baptist Church. John died of pancreatic cancer in July at age 80.

Another Alabama political legend, John Dorrill, passed away in January at age 90.  Ironically, John Dorrill and John Lewis were both born and raised in rural Pike County near Troy. John Dorrill went to work for the powerful Alabama Farmers Federation shortly after graduating from Auburn.  He worked for the Federation for 43 years.  For the last 20 years of his career, he oversaw and was the mastermind of their political plans and operations as Executive Director of the Federation.  He retired and lived out his final years on his ancestral home place in Pike County. John Dorrill was one of my political mentors and friends.

Another Montgomery political icon, former Republican State Senator Larry Dixon, passed away only a few weeks ago from COVID-19 complications at age 78.  He served over 20 years in the state legislature. Larry epitomized the conservative Republican, and his voting record was right in line with his Montgomery constituency.  He was known as “Montgomery’s State Senator” but his ultimate legacy may be as a great family man.  Larry was a devoted husband to his wife, Gaynell, and father to his two daughters. Larry was a good man.

Former Alabama Supreme Court Judge Hugh Maddox recently passed away at age 90. Judge Maddox served 31 years on the Alabama Supreme Court before his retirement in 2001.

One of my favorite fellow legislators and friends, Representative Richard Laird of Roanoke, passed away last week from COVID-19.  He was 81 and served 36 years in the Alabama House of Representatives. Richard was a great man and very conservative legislator.

In addition to Richard Laird, Alvin Holmes, and Larry Dixon, several other veteran Alabama legislators passed away this year including Ron Johnson, Jack Page and James Thomas.

We lost some good ones this year, who will definitely be missed as we head into 2021.

Happy New Year.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist.  His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers.  He served 16 years in the state legislature.  Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

2 months ago

Steve Flowers: Republican majority in the U.S. Senate is more important to Alabama than the presidency

(S. Flower/Twitter, ARMY/Contributed))

As this 2020 Presidential election year comes to a close, allow me to share some final thoughts on the results with you.

As you might expect, with this being the year of one of the worst pandemic viruses in human history, it would have an effect on politics. Surprisingly, given the fact that people were told to not go out and be around others, you had a massive turnout nationwide. In Alabama, the voter turnout was unprecedented and record breaking, especially among Republican voters. Donald Trump’s popularity in the state drove the turnout. He eclipsed his 62% landslide against Hillary Clinton. He garnered 63% of the amazing vote and provided coattails for Republican Tommy Tuberville and allowed the Coach to annihilate Democrat Doug Jones by a whopping 60 to 40 margin.

This year’s vote confirms the fact that a Democrat cannot win a statewide race in the Heart of Dixie. If Democrat Doug Jones can outspend Republican Tuberville $25 million to $7 million, a 4 to 1 advantage, but only manage to get 40% of the vote, that ought to tell you something. Forty percent appears to be the maximum threshold for a well-financed, articulate Democrat in the state.  Currently we have 38 elected statewide officeholders in Alabama and all 38 are Republicans. Therefore, winning the Republican nomination for a statewide office in Alabama is tantamount to election.

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The nation is divided politically in a deep chasm. Most of rural, middle America in the Heartland of the country is colored Republican red. The East and West coast metropolitan states, primarily New York and California are liberal blue states. If you take out the large runup of votes in California for Democrat Biden, then the race was close to being 50/50 between Trump and Biden.  However, the national popular vote is irrelevant as we elect our president under an electoral college system.

This election confirmed that there are 10 battleground states where the election is decided. In the other 40 states, the hay is in the barn. Alabama is reliably Republican, and California is solidly Democratic. Therefore, sophisticated, pinpoint campaigning is focused on Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and now the sunbelt states of Arizona, North Carolina, and Georgia. Campaign strategists can even determine the zip codes, neighborhoods, and locales that will determine the outcome in these swing states.

It was obvious that Democrats knew all along that the race would boil down to Michigan, Wisconsin and especially Pennsylvania.  Democrats had lost these three states by a razor thin margin to Trump in 2016 and they were the reason Trump edged Hillary Clinton. The key to victory was turning out the Democratic African American vote in Philadelphia and Detroit. Early voting and especially mail in voting helped accomplish this mission.

Another proven political maxim applied, “Primarily, more people vote against someone than for someone.” More people voted against Donald Trump than voted for Joe Biden.

One final thought on presidential politics. The national television networks are unabashedly and unashamedly biased. All of them, and polling may be dead. Very few people, especially Republicans, will trust poll numbers again. One final day poll had Biden beating Trump by 18 points in Wisconsin. He carried the state by less than 1%.

More importantly for Alabama is that the Republican party will more than likely keep the majority in the United States Senate. In the Senate the majority party makes the rules and gets all the committee chairmanships. Our Senior Senator, Richard Shelby, will retain the chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee as well as Chairman of the subcommittee on Defense Appropriations.

If you do not think federal defense dollars are important to Alabama, you best think again. No state in the nation benefits more from federal defense dollars than Alabama. Shelby’s prowess at bringing home the bacon to Alabama is legendary. His chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee is probably Alabama’s number one economic engine. Therefore, Tuberville’s defeat of Jones was good for Alabama because it allowed for a Republican pickup over a Democrat and probably insured the Republican majority in the Senate.

The current Senate count is 50 Republicans and 48 Democrats. There are two seats in Georgia that will be decided in Special Election runoffs on January 5. The Republicans will be favored to keep these two seats.

In closing, for Alabama’s sake economically, it is more important that the U.S. Senate is majority Republican because of Richard Shelby than who won the presidency.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist.  His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers.  He served 16 years in the state legislature.  Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

3 months ago

Flowers: Donald Trump has a profound legacy in presidential history, especially if you are a conservative American

(White House/Flickr)

Presidential historians and most astute national political observers and chroniclers have concluded that the most profound legacy a president can achieve is the appointment of United States Supreme Court Justices. Presidents serve four-year terms. Justices serve for a lifetime.

The Supreme Court of the United States is the ultimate final word on law and public policy in the United States. After they are appointed by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, they are impregnable to political whims or influence. They are sovereign and omnipotent. They are treated royally and usually serve on the high tribunal for over two decades or more.

Therefore, whether you like Donald J. Trump or not, he has a legacy. Most presidents are fortunate if they are able to name one justice to the court. Trump, over his four-year term appointed and had confirmed three. If you are a conservative Republican, this feat by President Trump makes him one of the most bulwark conservative presidents in history. He has cemented his legacy forever and changed the judicial philosophy of the court for the next generation.

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Trump’s three appointments are not only well qualified, polished, distinguished, moderate conservatives, they are also young. Justice Neil Gorsuch is 53. He replaced Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired. Justice Brett Kavanaugh is 55. He replaced arch-conservative Justice Anton Scalia. The most consequential appointment by President Trump is the appointment and confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett. She is only 48 and a solid conservative.

Trump’s appointment of Judge Amy Barrett is truly historical. This appointment changed the entire ideology of the court to a solidly six-to-three conservative majority. Barrett’s appointment is the most pivotal block in Trump’s rebuilding of the Court. In the Gorsuch and Kavanaugh appointments, you replaced conservatives with conservatives. In Barrett, you are replacing a woman with a woman, but more importantly you are replacing one of the most liberal justices in history with potentially one of the most conservative. In addition, at 48 Barrett will preside for the next three decades as will probably Gorsuch and Kavanaugh.

Along with these three conservative justices to the Supreme Court, President Donald Trump has been able to appoint nearly 300 federal judges to the lower federal courts throughout America. Trump could not have accomplished this generational change of the court without the advice and consent of a Republican majority United States Senate.

The Republican conservative stamp is also indelibly planted on the federal courts in Alabama. Senator Richard Shelby, in congruence with the Trump administration, has completely reshaped Alabama’s federal judiciary with very young, extremely qualified, conservative judges.

Speaking of our United States Senators, our senior Senator Richard Shelby was granted the omnipotent power to select all of our new, young, conservative judges throughout all of our districts – southern, middle and northern – not only because of his power, prestige and seniority, but also because he was our only Republican senator.

Our junior U.S. Senate seat has been held by a national liberal Democrat Doug Jones for the past three years. During his tenure, he toed the Democratic Senate line and wore that hat as the pawn and clone of the Democratic leadership in the Senate. Chuck Schumer told Jones to vote against Judges Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Barrett only because they were conservative Republican appointees.

His refusal to even meet with Justice Amy Barrett showed a total lack of class and southern civility and gentlemanly manners. It was also revealed to me that he was angling to appease his liberal Democratic brethren in order to be Joe Biden’s Attorney General. Yes, folks, you heard me right. Do not be surprised if Doug Jones is not the next Attorney General of the United State in the Biden administration.

The bottom line is if you are a conservative American, Donald J. Trump has a profound legacy in presidential history with three conservative appointments to the United States Supreme Court.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

4 months ago

Steve Flowers: Why a vote for Doug Jones is a vote against the state of Alabama

(Doug Jones for Senate, Joe Biden, Donald Trump, Tommy Tuberville/Facebook, YHN)

Our 2020 presidential election is less than two weeks away. We Americans will either elect Republican Donald Trump for another four-year term or Democrat Joe Biden.

In Alabama, we will either elect Republican Tommy Tuberville or Democrat Doug Jones for six-years to serve with our iconic senior Senator Richard Shelby. The winner will be elected to a six-year term in this august body.

Several of you took issue with my statement last week that a vote for the liberal Democrat Doug Jones is a vote against Richard Shelby and the State of Alabama. Allow me to clarify and explain to you as simply as I can why that is true and why I reiterate that declaration.

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The United States Senate is steeped in and governed by time-honored rules and traditions. The most revered and sacred shrine is the vestige of seniority. The rule of seniority is paramount. The longer you serve in the Senate the more powerful you become. Some become more powerful than others. Richard Shelby has become the most powerful and consequential U.S. Senator to have represented our state in Alabama history.

In my 2015 book, “Of Goats and Governors: Six Decades of Colorful Alabama Political Stories,” I have a chapter titled, “Alabama’s Three Greatest Senators.” They are Lister Hill, John Sparkman and Richard Shelby.

Senator Lister Hill was an austere, aristocratic gentleman who was renowned for health care. He was the author of the famous Hill-Burton Act and the father of the renowned UAB Medical Center. He served 30-years in the U.S. Senate.

Senator John Sparkman served in the U.S. Senate for 32-years. He was from Huntsville and is credited with being the father of Redstone Arsenal.

If I were writing that chapter today, Senator Richard Shelby would be alone as Alabama’s most consequential, powerful senator in our state’s history. He is in a league of his own. During his 34-year career in the Senate, Shelby has become renowned as the bearer of good tidings and federal dollars to the Heart of Dixie. If Lister Hill was the father of UAB and John Sparkman the father of Redstone Arsenal, then Richard Shelby can very aptly be referred to as the grandfather as well as great uncle to these two premier Alabama institutions. Richard Shelby is the reason UAB and Huntsville’s Space and Rocket Center are Alabama’s most prestigious as well as Alabama’s two largest employers.

Huntsville has become Alabama’s fastest-growing and most prosperous city and one of America’s brightest high-tech destination locations. The City of Huntsville is soon to become the second home of the FBI. The state-of-the-art Huntsville FBI cybersecurity headquarters will employ over 2,000 very highly paid individuals. This coup for Alabama is due to one person – our senior Senator Richard Shelby.

It is not just Huntsville and Birmingham that have benefitted from Shelby’s prowess and power, it is the entire state. Every corner of the state can point to a Shelby generated road, building, industry, or military installation.

You might be asking, how has Shelby accomplished so much for our state? It is simple. It is federal dollars. Then you might ask, how does Shelby bring so many federal dollars to Alabama? It is simple. He is Chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee. He appropriates the United States budget, or in other words, he controls the federal checkbook.

In addition to being chairman of Appropriations, Senator Shelby is chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. If you do not think that is invaluable to Alabama, you best think again. There is no state in the nation that benefits more through defense preparedness and dollars in the United States than the good ole Heart of Dixie.

Under the Rules of the Senate, the political party that has the majority of members presides and makes the rules. More importantly, for Alabama, the majority party gets all the committee chairmanships. Our Senior Senator Richard Shelby is a Republican. Currently, Republicans have a slim 53-to-47 majority in the Senate. There are three Republican incumbent senators in Arizona, Colorado and Maine, who are in serious jeopardy of losing. If the Republicans lose these three and one more, then Senator Shelby loses the chairmanship of appropriations and Alabama loses all of its power in Washington. Suppose your vote for Doug Jones, a liberal, national, California Democrat, is the deciding vote that puts the Democrats in control of the U.S. Senate and puts Richard Shelby and Alabama out to pasture.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

4 months ago

GOP control of U.S. Senate critical for Alabama

(United States Senate/Contributed, YHN)

The 2020 race for the White House will culminate in less than three weeks on November 3. However, some experts are predicting the outcome will not be determined that night and there will be a protracted result due to the massive number of mail-in votes.

In fact, state officials in Pennsylvania are expecting controversy. The Keystone State is looking like ground zero for the presidential contest. It is one of the largest key battleground states, and it has obviously been the focus of the Biden Democratic presidential campaign.

Under the Electoral College system, there are six pivotal battleground states to watch on election night. The election will be decided in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and to a lesser degree in Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona.

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The proverbial October surprise in the presidential race occurred in late September. The passing of legendary liberal Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg changed the entire dynamics of the 2020 election. The opportunity for President Trump to appoint an outstanding accomplished, conservative, federal jurist to the high tribunal is significant to say the least.

Trump’s appointment of Judge Amy Coney Barrett is truly historical. If Barrett is confirmed this will change the entire ideology of the Court to a solid six-to-three conservative majority. Trump’s appointment of Barrett is even more pivotal than his previous Gorsuch and Kavanaugh appointments. In these two cases, you replaced conservatives with conservatives. With Barrett, you are replacing a woman with a woman but more importantly, you are replacing one of the most liberal judges in history with potentially one of the most conservative. From a political standpoint, this Supreme Court surprise is like manna from Heaven for Trump and the Republicans.

The pandemic was the issue prior to the Ginsburg/Barrett surprise. Trump was not going to win on that issue as the person in the White House. While he may not have caused the problem, voters must blame someone. The campaign focus briefly changed from COVID to the Supreme Court battle. However, Trump’s contraction of COVID redirected the campaign focus back to the pandemic. Things are changing so rapidly the Supreme Court hearings and ultimate vote for confirmation scheduled for the last week of October may refocus the campaign theme back to a partisan divide between the socially liberal Democrats and the conservative Republicans. It will illuminate the differences in the two parties. The philosophical chasm is deep and wide.

Which brings me to this point – the battle over control of the U.S. Senate is just as important as the presidential contest in this year’s election. President Trump could not have garnered three Supreme Court appointees without the confirmation by the majority Republican Senate. Currently, Republicans have a slim 53 to 47 majority in the U.S. Senate. There are three Republican incumbent senators behind in polling and fundraising. The GOP is in serious jeopardy of losing seats in Colorado, Arizona and Maine; in addition, Iowa and North Carolina are toss-ups.

Your vote may not count for much in the presidential race. Trump wins in Alabama probably by a 60/40 margin. However, folks, I am here to tell you that your vote in Alabama’s U.S. Senate race is paramount for the state of Alabama. If the U.S. Senate flips from Republican to Democratic our iconic senior Senator Richard Shelby loses the chairmanship of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee and Alabama loses our power in Washington. Therefore, a vote for liberal Democrat Doug Jones is a vote against Richard Shelby and the state of Alabama.

The amount of federal money Richard Shelby brings home to Alabama as chairman of Appropriations is unimaginable. He is Alabama’s number one economic engine. Our seven Congressmen combined do not have 10% of the influence as Senator Shelby.

Whereas Doug Jones is totally irrelevant when it comes to Alabama. His only relevance in the Senate is to be a pawn for the New York and California liberal Democrats. He has voted reliably with Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and along with Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris. Indeed, Jones has voted so much like a Californian, most of his campaign money has come from the California Democrats. Actually, Jones is referred to in Washington as California’s third U.S. Senator.

Regardless of the fact philosophically Jones is the most liberal senator to sit in an Alabama Senate seat in recent times, economically a vote for a Democrat could cost Alabama millions of federal dollars. Therefore, not only is a vote for Doug Jones a vote against Richard Shelby and the state of Alabama, if you work or benefit from UAB or Redstone Arsenal or any military facility in our state, you may be voting to cut your own throat.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

6 months ago

Flowers: Labor Day

(Tommy Tuberville/Facebook, White House/Flickr, PSC/Contributed, YHN)

Labor Day is upcoming on Monday. In bygone days it was the benchmark day for campaign season to start. Historically, Labor Day barbeques were events where political campaigns had their roots. Camp stew and barbequed pork were devoured while folks listened to politicians promise how they were going to bring home the pork.

The most legendary political Labor Day barbeques have been held in the Northwest corner of the state. There were two monumental, legendary barbeque events in that neck of the woods that were a must-go-to event for aspiring and veteran politicians, both locally and statewide.

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The Terry Family Reunion is in the Loosier Community of Lawrence County. This is where the large Terry family originated. Actually, a good many of the folks that attend have kinship or ties to the Terry family. Many of the folks in Lawrence County are kin to each other through the large Terry family.

Every serious candidate for governor or major statewide office made the Terry barbeque. It lasted all day. Some would arrive in helicopters, which garnered attention. Legendary icons like Big Jim Folsom, George Wallace, Bill Baxley, Albert Brewer and Howell Heflin attended every year.

Another Labor Day barbeque was held in that area, which was just as important if not quite as big and wide open as the Terry Event. The legendary L. O. Bishop of Colbert County was known for having a Labor Day barbeque bash. His event was big, but more selective. L.O. was and has been for 60 years a leader in the Alabama Farmers Federation. He would only invite the Alfa-backed candidates. His barbeque is renowned as the best in the state.

Bishop and Howell Heflin were best friends. Heflin became the best friend the Alabama farmer had. Judge Heflin became chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. He did a yeoman’s job for Alabama agriculture.

Senator Heflin was from Colbert County. He was renowned for being a great lawyer, storyteller and judge. Being from Northwest Alabama, he made the event of his best friend L. O. Bishop and the Terry Family Reunion every year. He not only made the events, he stayed there all day, grazed and ate barbeque.

Judge loved to eat. He really loved barbeque. You could tell he liked to eat from his large rotund physique. He considered himself a connoisseur of barbeque. In fact, he toured the state every year and he would plan his schedule so that he could eat at his favorite barbeque places in every corner of the state. When he would get through eating a plate of pork or ribs, he would smack his lips, sigh, wipe his face with his handkerchief and say, “That’s some mighty fine barbeque, it’s almost as good as L.O.’s”

It may be hard for some of you to believe, but after World War II and throughout the 1960s organized labor was king in Alabama, unlike today where most of our large industries are not unionized. During that 20-year period (1946-1966), Alabama was the most unionized state in the South by far. In fact, every major employer in the state of Alabama was a union shop.

Beginning in Northwest Alabama, the Reynolds Aluminum Plant in Sheffield and Florence was union. The Tennessee Valley workers throughout North Alabama were all union. The paper mill and Goodrich Tire Plant in Tuscaloosa were union.

The largest employer in Gadsden, the Goodyear Tire Factory, was union.

The Lee County Tire Manufacturing Plant was union. The military base employees at Ft. Rucker in the wiregrass were union.

The largest employer in Mobile was the state docks. Guess what, Folks? All those workers belong to the union.

The largest employer in Birmingham, as well as the largest employer in the state of Alabama, were the steel mills and U.S. Steel. You guessed it – the steel workers were all unionized. In fact, the Steel Workers Union in Birmingham was the largest in the nation.

The GOP ticket that appears on the ballot in 60 days will be a powerful triumvirate. It has gone under the radar since the presidential and senate races have taken center stage, but popular PSC President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh is up for reelection. Thus, the Republican ticket will feature and illustrious alliteration of Trump/Tuberville/Twinkle, which will be hard to beat in the Heart of Dixie.

Happy Labor Day!

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 15 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

6 months ago

Flowers: We have six living past governors. How are they doing?

(Wikicommons, YHN)

Some of you may wonder how many past governors we have in Alabama who are still living and how they are doing. We have six living past governors.

Governor John Patterson is our oldest living chief executive. Patterson is 99-years-old and living on his ancestral family farm in rural Tallapoosa County in an obscure area named Goldville. Patterson is a legend in Alabama politics. He was governor from 1958-1962 and was at the forefront of the beginning of the civil rights issue. He has the distinction of being the only person to beat George Wallace in a governor’s race in the Heart of Dixie. When he was elected in 1958, he was 37-years-old and was dubbed the “Boy Governor.” Patterson was Attorney General of Alabama for a term prior to being governor and served several decades on the Court of Criminal Appeals after his governorship.

He spends his time on his farm reading and tending to his animals. In fact, visitors to his home will find he has a pet goat named Rebecca. She sits and listens intently to your conversation and her head will move and look at those talking as though she is part of the conversation. Governor Patterson is totally on top of his game and has attended numerous weddings and funerals in the past year. He recognizes and converses with friends and relatives.

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Forrest “Fob” James served two terms as governor, although not concurrently. He was first elected in 1978 as a Democrat, serving 1979-1982, and secondly in 1994 as a Republican serving from 1995-1998. He is the only person in state history to be elected governor as a Democrat and a Republican. Fob is 85 and doing well. He lives primarily in Miami, Florida, and spends his days walking and caring for his wife, Bobbie.

Robert Bentley was one of the most successful and respected dermatologists in the state prior to entering politics. Bentley served two terms in the Alabama House prior to his being elected governor, twice. He was first elected governor in 2010 and reelected, overwhelmingly, in 2014. He served over six years as governor and did a good job. He is 77-years-old and in good health. He has resumed his medical/dermatology practice in Tuscaloosa.

Bob Riley served two successful terms as governor. He was elected in 2002 and reelected in 2006, therefore serving as governor eight full years. He is only 75-years-old. He was raised in Clay County, and now lives in Birmingham with his lovely wife, Patsy. He has several lucrative lobbying contracts.

If anyone was ever born to be governor, it was Don Siegelman. He was born and raised in Mobile. He went on to the University of Alabama where he was SGA president and then went on to graduate from Georgetown Law School. He served in Alabama politics for 26 years. He was elected secretary of state, Attorney General of Alabama and lt. governor prior to his election as governor in 1998. He served one term as governor. Siegelman is the last member of the Democratic party as well as the only Roman Catholic to serve as Governor of Alabama.

Don is doing well at 74. I enjoy visiting with him over lunch. He enjoys time with his wife, Lori, and his two grown children, Joseph and Dana and his dog Kona. He has a book out entitled, Stealing our Democracy, which is doing well in sales.

Speaking of being born to be governor, Jim Folsom, Jr. was literally born in the Governor’s Mansion in May 1949, while his daddy, James “Big Jim” Folsom was governor his first term, 1946-1950. Jim Folsom, Jr. had an illustrious career in Alabama politics. He was elected and served several times as a member of the Public Service Commission and three terms as lt. governor, prior to becoming governor in 1993. He did an excellent job as governor and is credited with bringing Mercedes to Alabama.

Little Jim was a brilliant politician inherently being the son of the legendary “Big Jim” Folsom. However, most folks say his beautiful wife, Marsha Guthrie, is the better politician of the two. Jim and Marsha are doing well and live in their hometown of Cullman. Their son and daughter are grown and are doing well.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

8 months ago

Flowers: Why George Wallace said ‘no’ to U.S. Senate

(Wikicommons, YHN)

My next book on Alabama politics will expound on who I believe have been the top 60 political leaders in Alabama over the past 60 years.

More than likely in any political historian’s book George Wallace and Senator Richard Shelby would rank as the top two. The question is, “Who gets the number one spot?”

In my book, Senator Shelby trumps Governor Wallace. Maybe not six years ago, but after Shelby’s current reign as chairman of the United States Senate Appropriations Committee and what he has brought home to Alabama is simply unparalleled.

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Shelby’s remarkable 33 years in the U.S. Senate has been heralded by chairmanships of the Banking, Intelligence, Rules and now Appropriations committees. This will never be matched again in Alabama history. Indeed, it would be difficult to find any U.S. Senator in history with that resume.

In short, Shelby’s 33 years in the U.S. Senate capped with his pinnacle of power in the nation’s august body, trumps George Wallace’s 18 years as governor.

However, it is reasonable to bet that nobody will ever be governor of Alabama for 18 years again. That is quite a feat.

I am often asked the question, “Why did George Wallace not proceed to the U.S. Senate?” Other southern political legends like Huey Long in Louisiana and the Talmadges in Georgia wound up their political lives in the U.S. Senate after being governor of their state.

In most states, the ultimate political prize has been to go to the U.S. Senate and die there. There is an old saying that longtime southern senators will say, “The only way that I’m going to leave the United States Senate is by way of the ballot box or in a pine box.”

Being governor of a state is generally considered a prelude or stepping-stone to a U.S. Senate seat. Not so in Alabama, the governor’s office has always seemed to be the ultimate brass ring.

George Wallace could have gone to the U.S. Senate early in his career. In 1966 he had the golden opportunity. He had fought valiantly in 1965 to get the state senate to change the law that precluded a governor from succeeding himself. With that door closed, the obvious route for any politician would be to go to the Senate.

In 1966 Wallace was at the top of his game. He was at the height of his popularity. Race was the paramount and only issue. He owned the issue. He owned the state of Alabama politically. He was the king of Alabama politics, and there was a senate seat up for election.

The venerable John Sparkman was up for election. He was powerful and he was popular but he was no match for George Wallace and he was considered soft on the race issue. Wallace would have easily beaten Sparkman and gone to the Senate. He chose instead to run his wife for governor. Lurleen Wallace trounced the illustrious field of candidates.

After Wallace was shot in his presidential bid in 1972, he survived but he was mortally wounded and left a paraplegic for the rest of his life. His health was ruined and he was relegated to constant pain and confined to a wheelchair.

In 1978, Alabama had not only one, but also both senate seats vacant. Wallace was ending his third term as governor and had nowhere to go politically. It was obvious that Wallace should take one of the open seats. It was his for the asking. His close personal aide and friend, Elvin Stanton, related the scenario to me. Stanton said that Wallace was going to run, but at the last minute, he told Elvin, “Let’s go to Washington and look around.” They went together to the Capitol and surveyed the terrain.

It occurred to Wallace that his life would be difficult at best maneuvering the steps and corridors of the Capitol. He just did not want to leave Alabama. He wanted to be near his doctors. He wanted to die in Alabama, not Washington. I suspect in the back of Wallace’s mind he thought that he might run one more time for governor in 1982. He did and he won.

Wallace would have won a Senate seat in 1978 and he would have won one earlier in 1966. The bottom line is George Wallace just did not want to be a United States Senator. He liked being governor of Alabama.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column is in over 60 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the Alabama legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

9 months ago

Flowers: Mike Hubbard conviction finally upheld

(Alabama News Network/Facebook, YHN)

Over the past four years during my travels and speaking events over the state, the most asked question posed to me has been, “Why in the world is Mike Hubbard not in jail?”

It was four years ago in June 2016 that the speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives, Mike Hubbard, was convicted by a jury of his peers in Lee County of a dozen counts of violating the State Ethics Laws.

The most inquiring and astonished groups have been Republican laden clubs like Rotarians. They have been very indignant, vocally, about the imbalance of the criminal justice system towards white-collar political criminals, as opposed to those who are general thieves and assailants.

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These comments were generally laced with indignation and skepticism that Hubbard would never serve a day in jail.

Well, it looks like his day of reckoning may be coming near. He will eventually serve four years in an Alabama jail. Folks, that is not quite the ride that serving four years in a federal “country club” prison would be.

In April, the Alabama Supreme Court finally gave a clarified verdict on the 2016 Hubbard conviction. The Alabama Supreme Court upheld six of the 12 verdicts handed down in Lee County. It reversed five others and remanded the case back to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, which had previously reversed one of the convictions.

Chief Justice Tom Parker wrote in the majority opinion, “We must interpret and apply the law. And, every person accused of breaking the law – even one who had a hand in creating that law – is entitled to the same rules of legal interpretation. When charged with a crime, public officials must be treated no better – and no worse – than other citizens in this State where all are guaranteed equal justice under the law.” Hubbard may find further routes of delay; however, he will go to jail.

This ends an era of corruption inherent during the Bob Riley era as governor. Hubbard and Riley were well known to be best friends. There were numerous taped conversations between Riley and Hubbard used by prosecutors during the trial. During that reign, it appeared that it was open season on lobbyists in pay to play scenarios. Part of the team was the BCA backroom power player, Bill Canary.

This Hubbard/Riley/Canary triumvirate is forever gone from Goat Hill. There is still a lingering perception that Bob Riley is still calling shots from the sidelines of today’s political campaigns and world. Folks, that is a misnomer. As a lobbyist, Riley is able to get some campaign money for certain candidates from his friends and benefactors, the Indian gambling interests. However, his influence in state politics is insignificant. He is not the power behind the throne that is sometimes perceived. There were whispers that he had influence and even control over the State Supreme Court. This Hubbard decision dispels that myth.

As unsavory as Bill Canary had become, the breath of fresh air brought to the Business Council of Alabama by Katie Britt is significant, to say the least, if not monumental. Katie Britt, the young, vibrant CEO of the Business Council exudes not only energy but vast integrity and openness. She is twice as smart as most people on the block and ten times more honest and upfront with folks. She projects an image that makes business folks in Alabama proud to be a part of government in our state.

Katie revealed brilliant leadership, recently, when she initiated and orchestrated a BCA telethon on Alabama Public Television. They had volunteer lawyers, accountants and other experts on the phone answering questions about how to apply for federal programs in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. The governor, lt. governor and Attorney General appeared as guests on the show with Katie. Also appearing was the legendary leader of the National Federation of Small Businesses in the state, Rosemary Elebash, who has been a brilliant, hard-working leader for Alabama’s small business owners for decades.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

9 months ago

Speaker Sam Rayburn and Congressman Bob Jones

(Wikicommons, Encyclopedia of Alabama/U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Management Command/Redstone Arsenal, YHN)

The legendary Speaker of the U.S. House Sam Rayburn coined a famous phrase he used often and imparted to young congressmen when they would arrive on Capitol Hill full of vim and vigor. He would sit down with them and invite them to have a bourbon and branch water with him. The old gentleman, who had spent nearly half a century in Congress, after hearing their ambitions of how they were going to change the world, would look them in the eye and say, “You know here in Congress there are 435 prima donnas and they all can’t be lead horses.” Then, the speaker in his Texas drawl would say, “If you want to get along, you have to go along.”

Mr. Sam Rayburn ruled as speaker during the Franklin Delano Roosevelt post-Depression and World War II era. The Democrats dominated Congress. Mr. Sam could count on the big city congressmen from Tammany Hall in New York and the Chicago machine politicians following the Democratic leadership because they had gotten there by going along with the Democratic bosses who controlled the wards that made up their urban districts. But the country was still rural at that time and Mr. Sam would have to invite a backsliding rural member to his Board of Education meeting in a private den in the basement of the Capitol and occasionally explain his adage again to them – in order to get along, you have to go along.

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One of Mr. Sam Rayburn’s young pupils was a freshly minted congressman from Alabama’s Tennessee Valley. Bob Jones from Scottsboro was elected to Congress in 1946 when John Sparkman ascended to the U.S. Senate.

Speaker Rayburn saw a lot of promise in freshman congressman Bob Jones. The ole Texan invited Jones to visit his Board of Education meeting early in his first year. He calmly advised Jones to sit on the right side of the House chamber in what Mr. Sam called his pews. He admonished the young congressman to sit quietly for at least four years and not say a word or make a speech and to always vote with the Speaker. In other words, if you go along you will get along.

Bob Jones followed the sage advice of Speaker Rayburn and he got along very well. Congressman Bob Jones served close to 30 years in the Congress from Scottsboro and the Tennessee Valley. He and John Sparkman were instrumental in transforming the Tennessee Valley into Alabama’s most dynamic, progressive and prosperous region of the state. They spearheaded the location and development of Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal. Bob Jones was one of Alabama’s greatest congressmen.

At the time of Bob Jones’ arrival in Congress in 1946, we had nine congressional seats. By the time he left in the 1960s, we had dropped to eight. We now have seven. Folks, I hate to inform you of this, but population growth estimates reveal that we are going to lose a seat after this year’s count.

Our current seven-person delegation consists of six Republicans and one Democrat. This sole Democratic seat is reserved for an African-American. The Justice Department and Courts will not allow you to abolish that seat. Reapportionment will dictate that you begin with that premise.

The growth and geographic location of the Mobile/Baldwin district cannot be altered, nor can the urban Tennessee Valley 5th District, nor the Jefferson/Shelby 6th District. They are unalterable and will reveal growth in population. Our senior and most powerful Congressman Robert Aderholt’s 4th District has normal growth and you do not want to disrupt his tenure path.

The old Bob Jones-Huntsville-Tennessee Valley area is where the real growth in the state is happening. The census numbers will reveal that this area of the state is booming economically and population-wise. Therefore, you may see two seats spawned from this Huntsville-Madison, Limestone-Decatur-Morgan and Florence-Muscle Shoals-Tuscumbia area. The loser in the new reapportionment plan after the census will probably be the current 2nd District.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

10 months ago

Flowers: Alabama leaders under 45 who affect the political arena

(BCA/Contributed, Wes Britt/Facebook, UA/Contributed, Alabama Power/Contributed, PowerSouth/Contributed, Liz Dowe Fillmore/Twitter, William Fillmore/Facebook, Leah Garner/Twitter, Gina Maiola/Twitter, Sean Ross/Facebook, Jeff Poor/Twitter, Jack Royer/Twitter, YHN)

Last week, I discussed Alabama’s outstanding leaders in the political arena. This week, allow me to share with you some of the state’s leaders under 45 who are shaping and molding our state from outside the actual pit of the political arena.

The most prominent political power in the under 45 category, who is not in an elected position, is Katie Boyd Britt, who heads the Business Council of Alabama. Katie was born to be an Alabama leader 37 years ago in Enterprise. She was a high school leader and was governor of Girls State. Then she went on to the University of Alabama and excelled academically and was president of the Student Government Association. After college at Alabama, she continued on and graduated from law school at the university.

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She practiced law a couple of years, then went to work for our senior senator, Richard Shelby. She was his chief of staff before becoming chairman of the Business Council of Alabama. Katie is married to a popular young leader in the state, Wesley Britt, who played football at Alabama and went on to play pro-ball for the New England Patriots. They have two beautiful children.

Katie has a younger sorority sister, who is also a Wiregrass girl – Mary Margaret Carroll from Ozark. She was also an SGA president at the University of Alabama and is one of Alabama’s brightest young lobbyists.

Clay Ryan heads governmental affairs for the University of Alabama System. He is smart and savvy. He worked on Supreme Court races when Karl Rove was brought in by the business community during the Tort Reform wars. He was directing governmental affairs for a prominent Birmingham law firm when he moved to the University of Alabama System. The 42-year-old leads the governmental directions of the state’s largest employer.

Alabama Power will remain the most powerful governmental entity in the state for the next generation with the likes of Houston Smith (40) and R.B. Walker (33) who are prolific governmental affairs specialists.

Houston is the son of a prominent power company couple. Both his mother and dad were top officers in the company. Houston is steeped in knowledge of utilities and Alabama government. R.B. grew up in Montgomery and was president of the Student Government Association at the University of Alabama. He understands politics.

Speaking of utility companies, Power South has a superstar lobbyist arising in 35-year-old Montgomery native Taylor Williams.

Governor Kay Ivey has some young superstars on her staff. She has a husband and wife team that are outstanding in Bill and Liz Filmore. Liz has been with Kay Ivey going back to her campaign for lieutenant governor. She commands the governor’s respect because of her unwavering loyalty and keen political senses.

Her husband, Bill Filmore, is the governor’s legislative director. He has the respect of both parties and leaders of both chambers. He is very knowledgeable and a straight shooter. Bill comes from a political family. His daddy is a Wiregrass judge and Bill was SGA president at Troy University.

Leah Garner, who is the governor’s communications director is very bright and sees the big picture of Alabama politics. Gina Maiola does an outstanding job as the governor’s press secretary. She is an extremely talented wordsmith. She shoots straight with the press and they appreciate her honesty and accessibility.

Speaking of the media, you have some outstanding under 45 superstars covering the political world in Alabama. Sean Ross (26) joined Yellowhammer News in 2018 and quickly became editor. He is doing a super job of putting this online media news network on top. He understands Alabama politics amazingly for his age. He is a graduate of the University of Alabama and was involved in student politics.

Jeff Poor has taken over talk radio in Huntsville. He is very knowledgeable and conservative in an erudite way. Talk radio is very popular in that part of the state. He brings a less strident and quality voice to that medium, especially in that market.

Young Jack Royer, at the ripe age of 24, has become the television anchor rock star in the state. He anchors the CBS 42 nightly news with Sherri Jackson. The Birmingham media market dominates the state. Jack who only graduated from the University of Alabama two years ago, was born to be a television reporter and anchor. His dad, Mike Royer, was a renowned and very highly respected TV anchor in Birmingham for decades.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

10 months ago

Flowers: Alabama has some outstanding political leaders under 45

(B. Poole, W. Ainsworth, C. Scofield, C. Elliott/Contributed, Andrew Jones, Garlan Gudger Jr., Alabama Democratic Party, Anthony Daniels, Kyle South For Alabama State House District 16, Elect Judge Wes Allen to the AL House of Representatives, Mayor Steven Reed, Mayor Randall Woodfin/Facebook, YHN)

Many of you have lamented to me that it appears that all or most of our state political leaders are older folks. On first glance, that appears to be true. However, on a deeper observation, we have some extremely talented younger stars on the horizon. In fact, they are already in the ring and making a difference.

There are a few names that are worth watching. Allow me to share with you a select group of Alabama’s under 45 outstanding leaders. There are two superstars already on the scene and leading the state: State Representative Bill Poole of Tuscaloosa and Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth.

Rep. Bill Poole is a true leader, not a politician. He quietly and effectively gets things done. In close to six decades of observing the legislature, I have never seen anyone rise to the level of diplomacy and effectiveness as Poole while at the same time be universally liked and respected by the entire legislature on both sides of the aisle. He has been in the legislature for only 10 years. However, after only four years he was made chairman of the House Ways and Means Education Budget Committee. This is one of, if not the most powerful positions in the legislature.

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Poole may make a statewide move in 2022. However, from a power standpoint, there are very few statewide positions that would equal being chairman of the Ways and Means Education Budget Committee. Governor or U.S. Senator are the only two that would be comparable.

Speaking of governor, our young 39-year-old Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth has an unabashed eye on the governor’s office in 2022. If Kay Ivey does not run for a second term as most experts think will be the case, Ainsworth will be the frontrunner. He has set his sights on the brass ring and will be tough to beat. He has a very attractive young family and is a very good campaigner. He is very conservative and hails from vote-rich North Alabama.

Another fellow that is Ainsworth’s neighbor from Sand Mountain, State Senator Clay Scofield, is the brightest young star under 45 in the Alabama State Senate. Scofield is a folksy farmer, who you cannot help but like. He comes from a long line of prominent farmers. He is in his third term and is only 39 years old and is already in a leadership position in the Senate.

Another senator to watch is 40-year-old freshman Chris Elliott from Baldwin County. He has previously served on the Baldwin County Commission and knows how to get things done. He is going to be an effective voice for the Gulf Coast region of the state.

Young 36-year-old Senator Andrew Jones is going to be a strong advocate for his Cherokee/Etowah County constituents. He works hard at home staying in touch with folks in his district.

The name that appears on most lists as the freshman Senator to watch is Cullman County’s Garlan Gudger. He is very sincere and exudes integrity. He is a businessman, non-lawyer which is more of the profile in the Republican laden State Senate.

The House of Representatives has at least four young under 45 superstars. State Representative, Chris England, 43, is atop the list. He is the son of prominent Tuscaloosa Judge John England. Chris, like his dad, is a lawyer by profession. He is in his third term in the House and is also chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party.

Representative Anthony Daniels of Huntsville is a superstar. He is serving his second term from the Rocket City and it is apropos that he is a high-tech businessman. This 36-year-old gentleman is handsome, articulate and chairs the Democratic Caucus in the House.

Representative Kyle South, who represents Fayette and Tuscaloosa Counties, is on a fast track in the House and understands politics.

Representative Wes Allen of Troy has a bright future. He is 44 and has already served 10 years as Probate Judge of Pike County.

You may have noticed that I have listed nine legislators, four from the Senate and five from the House. Three of the nine are from the Tuscaloosa metro area – Bill Poole, Chris England and Kyle South – not a bad sign for the Druid City.

Newly-elected Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed makes the list of the brightest young leaders in the state at 45. The mayor of Alabama’s largest city, Birmingham, Randall Woodfin, is only 38. Therefore, the mayors of two of Alabama’s largest cities are 45 and under.

This concludes the 45 and under superstars that are actually in the political arena. Stay tuned next week, we will give you a list of those that affect the arena.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

11 months ago

Flowers: Some 2020 observations

(Hal Yeager/Governor's Office, Will Ainsworth/YouTube, Pixabay, YHN)

Allow me to share some observations from the year thus far. First of all, I have never seen anything like the coronavirus shutdown of the country. Hopefully, it is a once in a lifetime disaster.

Governor Kay Ivey remains popular. Even though some people consider the defeat of Amendment One a personal rejection, it was not. Alabamians just like to vote to elect their political and, in this case, educational leaders.

As you recall, Amendment One was asking Alabamians to give up their right to vote on the state school board and to allow the governor to appoint them instead. When I was queried on whether Amendment One would pass, I quickly told them it would lose 60 to 40. I was wrong, it took more of a shellacking than that. It lost 75 to 25. Folks, that sends a message. You may not know who serves on the state school board, but Alabamians surely want to vote for them.

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Governor Ivey’s people do a good job of looking after her and protecting her time. She is all business and is very scheduled. She and her staff treat the office with a dignity I have not seen in decades. She is focused on the job at hand and an audience with her must be for a purpose, even with legislators. Her staff gets her in-and-out and protects her time and health. She has been especially isolated since the coronavirus epidemic. She will more than likely not run for a second term in 2022.

Waiting in the wings to run is Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth. He just turned 39 and will be in the race for the brass ring in 2022. If being an outstanding family man is a prerequisite, he will be a contender. He has a genuinely sweet and pretty wife named Kendall. They have fraternal twin boys, Hunter and Hays, who are 10 and a little 8-year-old girl named Addie. I met the boys the night of the State of the State Address. Will brought them over to where I was standing and wanted us to meet. The little boys were the most polished 10-year-olds I have ever met. They very politely, yet confidently looked me in the eye and shook my hand and said, “It’s nice to meet you Mr. Flowers.” They exuded manners.

Kay Ivey only attends the most important events and she does not lollygag around conversing afterward. Therefore, it was apparent when she came to Birmingham earlier this year to the grand opening of Dr. Swaid Swaid’s, state-of-the-art medical facility, that Swaid was special.

Dr. Swaid has been a friend and supporter of almost every governor, going back to George Wallace. Governor Wallace came to UAB to see Swaid and would not only want the famed physician to treat him for his numerous afflictions and ailments, but also enjoyed visiting with the jovial Galilean doctor. Swaid has many great stories from his and the governor’s visits and friendship.

Swaid’s best friend is State Senator Jabo Waggoner. They are really like brothers rather than just best friends. Jabo is the longest-serving member in the history of the state legislature. He chairs the State Senate Rules Committee.

Jabo and Swaid and their families spend almost every weekend together, either at their homes in Vestavia or Smith Lake. However, they make it to their church, Homewood Church of Christ, almost every Sunday. Jabo and his beautiful wife, Marilyn, have attended the church for 45 years. Swaid has attended for 40 years. Jabo and Swaid are leaders in this megachurch.

Recently, Jabo and Marilyn and Swaid and his lovely wife, Christy, invited me to join them for their church service and lunch afterward. It was an enjoyable visit. The most rewarding part was meeting Swaid and Christy’s two sons, Christian and Cason. They are absolutely the politest and quality young men I have met. They are being raised right by an obviously good Christian father and mother.

Swaid built his state-of-the-art surgery hospital on well-traveled, easily accessible Highway 31 in Vestavia. He chose the location because he knew from his work over the years, that people from all over the state, especially rural areas, come to Birmingham for major surgery. Most of these patients are older and not familiar with Birmingham traffic, especially with maneuvering the labyrinth around UAB. It will make it much easier to see the world-renowned doctors in Swaid’s group.

If Swaid’s boys are an example of the next generation, our state may be in better hands than we think.

Steve is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

12 months ago

Flowers: Chancellor Finis St. John and the University of Alabama System

(UAH/Contributed, YHN)

Our 1901 Alabama Constitution has been rightfully criticized as being archaic. However, it was simply a reflection of the times. The authors and crafters of our document were well-educated gentry. Therefore, they appreciated and realized the importance of having a prized capstone university.

The University of Alabama was founded in 1831 and had become one of the premier southern universities by the time of the Civil War. It was not by coincidence that one of the primary missions of the northern Union invasion of the South was to burn and raze the University of Alabama campus. They knew the importance of a state having an exemplary institution of higher learning.

Therefore, when the authors of our Constitution crafted their document, they chose to place the University of Alabama above politics and keep the institution in the auspices of high-minded individuals who would be above reproach and petty politics.

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The Constitution created a self-appointing, perpetual board of trustees to guide and govern the university. This concept has played out magnificently throughout the years. The board of trustees has been made up of men and women over the past two centuries who have been leaders of our state. These board members have not only been the most distinguished, erudite people in Alabama, but also those known for their integrity and humility.

Thus it was a unique and yet brilliant decision to choose someone from the board of trustees to head the University of Alabama System. In July 2018, Finis E. St. John IV, who had served 17 years on the University System Board was named chancellor.

He became the chief executive officer of what would be comparable to a Fortune 500 company. The University of Alabama System is not only Alabama’s largest higher education enterprise, it is Alabama’s largest employer with over 45,000 employees and an economic impact of over $10 billion per year.

The Alabama System is comprised of three dynamic institutions: The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, University of Alabama at Huntsville and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, which comprises our world-renowned UAB Health System. UAB alone is by far Jefferson County’s largest employer and economic engine, it is indeed the State of Alabama’s number one employer and economic ingredient.

It would have been an easy choice for the board to choose to bring in an academician from an Ivy League school to head this prestigious institution. The choice of Finis St. John reflects the collective wisdom of this austere body. Why not select someone who has been an integral part of the governing and spearheading of the unparalleled growth of our state’s crown jewel and most significant financial and educational and research institution.

Finis St. John IV, better known by colleagues and older acquaintances as Fess, is widely respected. He knows Alabama, its history, and its attributes. His family settled in Alabama in 1838 and have been leaders in our state throughout the state’s history.

Chancellor Finis “Fess” St. John was the most outstanding leader on campus during his four years at the University of Alabama in the 1970s. He graduated magna cum laude and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and ODK and graduated with honors.

After his undergraduate process at the Capstone, he was accepted and proceeded to the prestigious University of Virginia School of Law. He graduated at the top of his law school class in 1982 and clerked for a federal judge for a while before coming home to Cullman to join his family law firm.

The St. John law firm in Cullman, that Fess joined 36 years ago, is one of Alabama’s oldest law firms. The St. John family has a long and distinguished history of service. His father, grandfather and great grandfather served in the Alabama legislature. His mother was the first female attorney in Cullman and his great great grandfather, who arrived in Cullman in 1838 and was soon elected to the Alabama General Assembly, was instrumental in creating our state’s public education system.

Chancellor St. John understands and knows the history and potential of our state in a very unique way. This, coupled with his brilliant intellect, makes him ideal. If anyone was ever born to lead the current University of Alabama System, it is Finis “Fess” St. John, IV.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

1 year ago

Flowers: Legislative session begins – Priority will be resolving prison problems

(Gov. Bentley/Flickr, Wikicommons, YHN)

The 2020 legislative session, which began last week, will be the second session of Governor Kay Ivey’s administration. For the second straight year, she and the legislature will be facing a major obstacle.

The prison problem is the paramount issue for the year. The state must address and resolve this dilemma or the federal authorities will take over our prisons.

The U.S. Justice Department has decreed that the constitutional rights of inmates are being violated because they are in overcrowded conditions which can lead to extreme violence. The federal justice officials say overcrowding and excess violence is caused by a shortage of staff and beds for inmates.

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Our men’s prisons are at 170 percent of the system’s capacity. In the past few weeks it has gone from bad to worse with a forced transfer of more than 600 inmates from Holman Prison. Our Holman correctional facility is generally where our most hardened criminals are housed.

Gov. Ivey and this legislature did not cause this problem. It has been building up and festering for years. The chickens have just come home to roost under her watch but she is attempting to handle the problem adroitly.

The Governor and her administration have worked openly and pragmatically with the Justice Department in clearly defined negotiations. It might be added that the Justice Department has worked congruently and candidly with the Ivey administration and given them clear guidelines in order to avoid federal intervention.

Gov. Ivey and the Justice Department are taking a harmonious approach, which is a far cry from the Gov. George Wallace versus Judge Frank Johnson demagogic rhubarb of past years. In that case, the state lost and we lost in a big way. When the federal courts take over a state’s prison system, they dictate and enforce their edicts and simply give the state the bill. It is a pretty large, unpredictable price tag. The feds always win.

Gov. Ivey will take information from a study group she appointed, led by former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Champ Lyons as well as negotiate with the Justice Department and offer proposals they need from the legislature along with administrative decisions to remedy the prison problem.

Leading the legislative efforts will be State Senator Cam Ward who has been the lead dog in the prison reform efforts. The problem hopefully will be resolved during this session.

Gov. Ivey will not use the approach she did last year with rebuild Alabama when she adjourned the regular session and placed the legislature in special session to address the issue on a solo stand-alone platform. It will be tackled within the confines of the regular session. If the solution is to build three new, modern men’s prisons the state will be faced with some heavy lifting because the big question becomes, how do we pay for them?

The answer may be in a lottery. For the umpteenth year, a proposal to let Alabamians vote to keep the money from lottery tickets in our state coffers. We are one of only four states in America who derive no money from lottery proceeds. We are surrounded on all four sides of our state by sister southern states that reap the benefits of our citizens’ purchase of lottery tickets. This could be the year that the legislature votes to allow their constituents the right to vote yes or no to keep our own money.

You can bet your bottom dollar that if it gets on the ballot, it will pass. Alabamians, both Democratic and Republican, will vote for passage. Even if they do not have any interest in purchasing a lottery ticket. They are tired of seeing their money go to Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi or Florida. Those that like to buy them are tired of driving to our neighboring states to give them money for their school children and roads.

It also may have a better chance of getting to the voters this year because the sponsor, Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark) is a respected veteran and chairman of the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee. His proposal is also a very simple paper lottery.

However, for the first time, Gov. Ivey addressed the issue in her State of the State Address. She is calling for a study commission on the subject which could further delay our having a lottery.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

1 year ago

Legislative session begins this week; Legislator abolishes his own county

(Steve Flowers/Twitter)

The 2020 legislative session begins this week. It will be an interesting three and a half months. There are a myriad of important issues that legislators have to address this year, as always. However, standing in the way of substantive state issues each year is the necessity to address local bills.

Our 1901 constitution is archaic in many aspects. One of which is that those men who drafted the act were reluctant to give home rule to local counties for various reasons. Therefore, county governments and county commissions must come with hat in hand to their legislator to even take care of mundane matters.

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Many of you have asked with dismay, after journeying to the legislature for a view of the House and Senate in action, what is happening? They are astounded and oftentimes outraged at the scene on the floor. It appears that one legislator is at the microphone and nobody is paying attention to him. The other 100 legislators are milling around visiting with each other laughing, eating, talking on cell phones, doing everything under the sun but paying attention to the pertinent issue being introduced. In the other chamber, they may see or hear a clerk reading a bill aloud and no senator is even present on the floor. This display of disorganization, disarray and lack of decorum is difficult to explain to school children who come to the Capitol for the day.

The reason is that the issue up front for debate and passage is whether Fayette County can buy a tractor or Walker County wants to change the number of seats on a local water board. The bill does not affect but one county and the local legislative delegation is the only one that needs to vote on it.

This brings me to a pertinent point – the legislature is not a good steppingstone to higher elective office. First, legislators get no statewide name identification. Second, legislators have a very extensive record of casting hundreds of votes. These votes can be scrutinized and distorted.

If a legislator takes the position that they choose to abstain from voting on the other counties’ local bills, then they are recorded as not voting on over 100 votes in a session. An opponent can run an ad accusing them of going to Montgomery and not even showing up to vote. On the other hand, a good number of these local bills are not as benign as just buying a tractor. A county commission may be asking for local legislation to raise the local fuel tax to buy a fleet of tractors. Therefore, if you vote a complimentary yes as a courtesy to your legislative colleague, you are recorded as voting for millions of dollars in taxes. Then you have to run on that record.

There has been a lot of trickery over the years with local legislation. Therefore, legislators need to be aware of what may be hidden in these innocuous local acts their fellow legislators ask then to vote for. A legendary, masterful act of deceit played on a legislator by a fellow legislator still reverberates almost 60 years later. It occurred during the second Big Jim Folsom administration during the late 1950s. Legislators Emmett Oden of Franklin County and Jack Huddleston of Colbert County despised each other. These two counties adjoin each other in Northwest Alabama. These two men were constantly at odds.

Oden introduced a local bill for Franklin County that repealed another local bill passed in December of 1869. His brief explanation to the House of Representatives when the measure came up for a vote was that it was simply a housekeeping bill, “It corrects an error when the original bill was passed.”

Through the custom of local courtesy, the local bill passed unanimously. Even Representative Jack Huddleston voted for the bill. After passage of the measure, Representative Oden told the press what his local bill actually did.

The 1869 law, which he was repealing, was the law that had created Colbert County out of Franklin County. Representative Huddleston had just voted to abolish his own county. That one vote ended Huddleston’s political career. His constituents in Colbert County could not forgive that he had voted to abolish his own county.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

1 year ago

Flowers: Great three-man race to replace Byrne; Senate race in full gear

(Jerry Carl for Congress, Pringle for Congress, Bill Hightower for Alabama/Facebook, YHN)

The first district Congressional race is probably the best race in the state in this year’s March 3 primary. The winner of the March 31 GOP primary runoff will go to Congress. The famous first district is a Republican congressional seat and has been since Jack Edwards won the seat in the Southern Goldwater landslide in 1964.

The bulk of the district population is in the two-county gulf coast counties of Baldwin and Mobile. It being the only gulf coast district in the state, they do have some local issues like red snapper fishing, and their infamous Bay 10 bridge and Bayway project. However, for the most part, the candidates are focusing on national issues like international affairs, gun control, health care, the environment, immigration and abortion. As is apropos for Republican Congressional candidates, they are all trying to tie themselves to Donald Trump.

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There are three clear frontrunners, Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl, State Representative Chris Pringle and former State Senator Bill Hightower, all from Mobile. Commissioner Carl has been a Mobile County Commissioner since 2012. Pringle is a state legislator from Mobile. Bill Hightower served one term in the Alabama State Senate, then made an unsuccessful bid for governor in 2018. The three seem to be knotted in a close three-man race. It will be interesting to see which of the three make the two-man March 31 primary.

The seat is open because Bradley Bryne is running for the U.S. Senate. Byrne had to choose to either continue in his seat or go for the brass ring. Bryne is a very viable candidate in the Senate race. However former Senator Jeff Sessions is favored to lead the March 3 Primary and runoff, and then take back his U.S. Senate seat in the November general election.

Sessions will settle in for a six-year term. Probably his final. He is 73 years old and will be 74 when he takes office next January. Therefore, he will be a 74-year-old freshman senator. That is not the optimum age to become a U.S. Senator again.

Seniority is everything in Washington. Seniority still prevails dominantly. It is absolutely king. Sessions does not portray the national image and stature that our Senior Senator Richard Shelby enjoys, much less the power, prestige and ability to bring home the bacon to the Heart of Dixie. Indeed, during their 20 years of service together as our tandem in the Senate, Shelby has overshadowed Sessions not only in seniority but in power and accomplishments.

Actually, Sessions does not mind playing second fiddle to Shelby. He prefers it. During his 20 years in the Senate, he enjoyed playing the role of being the ultimate conservative ideologue. He was and will once again become one of the most conservative members of the Senate and will spend his time on social issues like immigration, abortion or other rightwing noneconomic issues. Sessions will be the darling of Fox News and will ask for his seat back on the Judiciary Committee, which does absolutely nothing for Alabama. Sessions does not really want to be effective. He is the ultimate ideologue.

Even though Sessions will be 74 in January of 2021, his chief rivals for the GOP nomination, Tommy Tuberville and Bradley Byrne will be 66 and 65, respectively – not exactly spring chickens. Those are not the perfect ages to enter the U.S. Senate. By the same token, if by some remarkable miracle upset Doug Jones wins this year’s race, he would not be the perfect effective senator for Alabama as a 65-year-old Democrat.

Thank goodness for the Heart of Dixie we have Richard Shelby as our senior U.S. Senator. When you have the chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, you really do not need a second senator. Seniority is everything in Washington.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

1 year ago

Steve Flowers: Methodists have dominated high offices in Alabama history

(YHN)

Even though there are more Baptists than Methodists in Alabama, historically Methodists have held more of the prominent political posts in the Heart of Dixie. If you look closely at these leaders’ lives, a good many of our leaders have been sons of Methodist ministers.

The most famous Methodist minister in the state over the past 50 years has been the Rev. John Ed Mathison of Montgomery. He has been the confidant and counselor to a great many of Alabama’s leaders, as well as being the greatest inspirational and dynamic speaker of our time. John Ed founded and pastored the Frazer United Methodist Church in Montgomery. He shepherded his flock in the capital for 36 years.

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His younger brother is a remarkable man, very similar to John Ed. The Rev. George Mathison served numerous churches in Alabama. However, he is best known for being the minister of the First Methodist Church of Auburn, where he was their beloved pastor for 26 years. His flock referred to him as Brother George.

John Ed and George were born to be Methodist ministers. Their father was a renowned Methodist minister. They were both athletes in college. John Ed and George are both outstanding tennis players.

The First Methodist Church of Dothan is where many of the leaders of the Wiregrass have attended over the years. Dr. Mike Watson has been a leader in the Methodist Church throughout his illustrious career. He recently retired as a Bishop of the Methodist Church. He and his wife, Margaret, grew up in the First Methodist Church of Dothan. Two Alabama Attorney Generals, Bill Baxley and Richmond Flowers, came from First Methodist in Dothan. Congressional candidate and businessman Jeff Coleman is also an active member of this church.

Our legendary United States Senator and Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Howell Heflin was the son of a Methodist minister. Heflin was a master storyteller and having grown up in the Methodist Church was an active layman in the church. He loved to eat. He would say, “The sacred bird of the Methodist was fried chicken.” The Methodist practice of moving their preachers around caused Heflin to be born out of Alabama. Heflin would say, “My father was over in Georgia doing missionary work among the heathen.”

Alabama’s most prominent and prolific political icon, George Wallace, was a Methodist. Our legendary United States Senators Lister Hill and John Sparkman were both Methodists.

State Rep. Steve Clouse has been a member of First Methodist in Ozark his entire life. State Rep. Bill Poole and Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox are members of the First Methodist Church of Tuscaloosa. Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle is a Methodist and his grandfather was a Methodist minister.

Former Senator Jeff Sessions is a lifelong, devout Methodist. He even went to the Montgomery Methodist founded college, Huntington. BCA President Katie Britt and her husband Wesley attend the First Methodist Church of Montgomery. Current Chief Justice Tom Parker and his wife Dottie attend Frazer United Methodist of Montgomery, the church made famous by John Ed Mathison.

Congressman Robert Aderholt and his wife, Caroline, met at the Methodist college of Birmingham-Southern College and were married in the Methodist church, but are now Anglicans.

The Baptists have been taking their rightful place at the head of the table in recent years. Our Governor Kay Ivey is a Baptist. She attends First Baptist Church of Montgomery. The legendary pastor there, Jay Wolfe, has been the confidant and pastor to a good many of our recent state leaders. PSC President Twinkle Cavanaugh and her husband, Jeff, are also active members of First Baptist Church of Montgomery. Twinkle teaches Sunday School and Jeff is a deacon.

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth is a Baptist and has been a youth leader in his church. Secretary of State John Merrill is an active member of Calvary Baptist Church of Tuscaloosa. State Senator Greg Reed of Jasper is a Baptist. Greg has been a lifelong member of First Baptist Jasper. Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell is a deacon of his church, Hillcrest Baptist of Maplesville, where his family has attended for generations.

We have a couple of state leaders who are Presbyterians. The two most prominent are our Senior United States Senator, Richard Shelby and state Treasurer John McMillan.

We have two token Episcopalians, Mobile/Baldwin Congressman Bradley Bryne and the congressman who preceded him, Jo Bonner, who is currently Governor Ivey’s Chief of Staff.

In bygone days if you wanted to be elected to anything in North Alabama, you had to be a member of the Church of Christ. Not so much today. The only member of that church today, who is a prominent state political leader, is State Senator Jabo Waggoner, Jr., who represents an over the mountain, Birmingham silk-stocking district.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

1 year ago

Steve Flowers: Remembering some Alabama legends we lost in 2019

(Wikicommons, Auburn University College of Agriculture/Contributed, Alyce Spurell/Twitter, Alabama House Republican Caucus/Facebook, Dimitri Polizos/Contributed, Mayor Randall Woodfin/Facebook, WVUA 23/Facebook, WKRG/Twitter, YHN)

As is my tradition, as the old year comes to a close, I like to pay homage to legendary Alabama leaders who have passed away. We lost some legends in 2019.

Although he was a nonpolitical leader, Bart Starr passed away this year at 85. Starr was best known for being the quarterback of the great Green Bay Packers teams that won the NFL Championship perennially. Starr was the leader of Coach Vince Lombardi’s dynasty teams.

Starr died during Memorial Day weekend in Birmingham. He left an indelible legacy that was vast and greater than just being a pro-quarterback. Starr was a Packer and Alabama Football legend. However, Starr’s grace, humility and love for his wife Cherry is what made him a great man. Starr grew up in Montgomery. He was a successful businessman after his NFL career.

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Legendary State Representative Pete Turnham of Auburn died in his beloved city in September. He was three months away from being 100. He served 40 years in the Alabama House of Representatives and during that tenure he made sure that Auburn University was taken care of in the state budget. Mr. Pete was one of my best friends. We sat together in the House for 16 years.

A lion and giant of the Alabama House of Representatives, Rick Manley, passed away in January at 86. Rick served the people of Demopolis and West Alabama in the Legislature more than 25 years. He was one of the most astute parliamentarians to ever serve in the legislature. Rick Manley served as chairman of both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. He was also an outstanding attorney and served in a leadership role within the Alabama Law Institute. Manley served a term as Speaker Pro Tem of the Alabama House.

Representative Jimmy Martin of Clanton died in May of cancer on the last day of the 2019 Regular Legislative Session. He was 80. He knew almost everyone in Chilton County. He and his brother ran their family funeral home.

State Representative Dimitri Polizos of Montgomery passed away in March at 68. He was a longtime Montgomery restaurant owner. He was very well liked and respected in the Capitol City. Dimitri was typical of many of today’s Republican legislators. He was a small business owner and a conservative. Dimitri was not only a successful restaurateur, he also was very active in and an integral part of the Greek community and the Greek Orthodox Church. Polizos served six years in the Legislature; prior to that he served six years on the Montgomery County Commission.

Chris McNair passed away in May at 93 in Birmingham. Mr. McNair was a former Jefferson County Commissioner. Chris McNair was a first-class gentleman. We served together in the legislature. We became good friends. He loved photography. He was always taking pictures, in fact it was his business/profession. His daughter Denise was one of the four little girls who were killed by a bomb at the 16th Street Baptist Church in downtown Birmingham in the 1960s. The girls were attending Sunday school. Chris served 15 years on the Jefferson County Commission. He loved his family and his community.

Legendary former Tuscaloosa mayor, Al Dupont, passed away in July at age 94. He served as mayor of the Druid City for 25 years, retiring in 2005. He was colorful and beloved by many. He was a decorated veteran of World War II and won two Purple Hearts. He was among the first wave of troops who stormed Normandy on D-Day. He epitomized the greatest generation.

Former 1st District Congressman, Jack Edwards, passed away in September at 91. Edwards was one of the first Republican congressmen elected from Alabama in 1964 since Reconstruction. Congressman Edwards served his Mobile/Baldwin County District for exactly 20 years from 1965-1985. Edwards was a stalwart advocate for a strong military. He was a ranking member of the Defense Appropriations Committee.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist.  His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers.  He served 16 years in the state legislature.  Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

1 year ago

Pete Turnham epitomized the Greatest Generation

(Auburn University College of Agriculture/Contributed)

Famous former television news anchor, Tom Brokaw, wrote an iconic book entitled “The Greatest Generation.” The 1998 book chronicles the unique character of a generation of Americans. Brokaw attempted to capture the unselfish contribution of our World War II Americans who built our marvelous country.

As Brokaw says, “They will have their place in the ledgers of history, but no block of marble or elaborate edifice can equal their lives of sacrifice and achievement, duty and honor as monuments to their time.”

Pete Turnham of Auburn passed away on September 30, 2019. Mr. Pete epitomized the best of the Greatest Generation. He was three months shy of 100 when he transitioned to be with his maker and his beloved wife, Kay, who preceded him in death in 2016. While on Earth, he lived every day to the fullest. He truly made a difference during the century he was here.

Mr. Pete represented Auburn and Lee County in the Alabama House of Representatives from 1958 to 1998. This is the longest tenure in state history. Due to his longevity and tenure in the legislature, Mr. Pete became known as the “Dean of the House.”

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Like many of the Greatest Generation, Pete served in World War II. Pete shipped off to Europe during the war earning distinction in battle as a Bronze Star Medal and Valor award winner under the command of the famed General George Patton in the Third Army. His assignment at the end of the war was as a company commander of troops guarding the priceless art stolen and stored by the Nazis at Neuschwanstein Castle. This story was the subject of a famous movie entitled, “The Monuments Men.” You might say that George Clooney played the part of Pete.

Pete came home, raised his family and built a legacy in his beloved Auburn. Like many ambitious men of the Greatest Generation, Pete became successful in business. However, Mr. Pete is best known for his 40 years of service in the Alabama legislature. Most of that time he was on the Ways and Means Committee, which appropriates the state education dollars. He made sure that Auburn University got their fair share of these dollars. He retired as the dean of the House in 1998.

It was one of the greatest privileges and experiences of my life to sit beside Mr. Pete in the legislature for 16 years. We became best friends for life. When I arrived as a freshman, 30-year-old legislator in 1982, Pete had already been a representative for 24 years. He had known me as a youngster when I spent my summers paging in the House. When I arrived, Pete took me under his wing and told me I was going to sit by him. Therefore, I immediately left the other freshmen on the back row and went to a prime seat near the front of the chamber next to the Dean of the House.

You get to know someone well over 16 years. Pete Turnham was the consummate gentleman. I never heard him say a harsh word about anyone or use any profanity.

He loved his wife, Kay, his children, his Baptist Church in Auburn and Auburn University. He also loved his vegetable garden. True to his agricultural roots, he grew his own produce in his six acres behind his house. Pete’s favorite place was in his vegetable garden where for 65 years he personally attended the planting and harvesting. He had quite a green thumb. His garden was famous and he shared the bounty with friends and neighbors.

Like many great men of that generation, he genuinely loved and cared about people and helping his fellow man. He helped and cared for his folks in Lee County on a daily basis, especially assisting students at Auburn University.

I closely watched Pete helping aspiring students and his constituents. He helped a lot of folks in Lee County and he did it without fanfare, whether it was giving someone down on their luck vegetables from his garden or getting their road fixed. Everything he did was with humility, helpfulness, peace-making efforts and a positive attitude. Pete Turnham was a true Christian gentleman.

Pete Turnham served under nine different governors and nine different House speakers. He was the only legislator to serve during all the Wallace administrations. Passing at nearly 100 years old in the year of Alabama’s Bicentennial 200th Anniversary, Mr. Pete lived half of Alabama’s history and participated in making much of it.

Pete Turnham was one of the greatest of the Greatest Generation.

Next week we will commemorate the other Alabama political legends who passed away this year.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.