Yellowhammer News on Tuesday spoke with State Senator Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville), who was selected by his Republican colleagues the previous day to be the next majority leader in the legislature’s upper chamber.
This vote by the Senate GOP Caucus came after Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) in the same meeting announced he would step down from his leadership role effective at the beginning of the 2021 regular session.
Current Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) was then unanimously nominated by the caucus members to succeed Marsh, which would — at that effective time — create a vacancy as majority leader.
Speaking to Yellowhammer News, Scofield said, “I’m very humbled by the trust my colleagues have placed in me for this important role.”
“I look forward to serving them and making sure that I know and understand their priorities and their needs so I can assist them in successfully representing their constituents,” he continued.
Scofield lauded the conservative, pro-jobs work accomplished by the Senate since the Republican wave of 2010, the same year Marsh became pro tem. Marsh has also announced he will not seek reelection as a senator in 2022, meaning the next two regular sessions will be his last. He was first elected in 1998.
“I look forward to working with Pro Tem-elect Greg Reed in his new role,” Scofield remarked. “Senator Reed has big shoes to fill that our current Pro Tem Del Marsh is leaving.”
“It’s been an honor to serve with Pro Tem Marsh,” he added. “He’s done an amazing job.”
Scofield advised that he believes Reed “has great leadership skills and will be able to continue the positive momentum of the Senate in serving and bettering the lives of all Alabamians.”
The senator from Marshall County further congratulated Marsh and Reed, saying he looks forward to continuing to work with both of them for the remainder of this quadrennium (and — in Reed’s case — beyond).
The 2021 regular session is set to gavel in on February 2. Looking ahead to that date, Scofield told Yellowhammer News about some pressing priorities he sees on the Senate’s agenda.
“I think the number one focus that we need to have is getting the economy back on track from COVID,” he emphasized. “That has to be our top priority, and I believe that it will be.”
Scofield pointed to a few specific measures to that end, including some of the proposals that have been floated as potential agenda items for a special session that has — at least yet — not been called.
This includes ensuring there are reasonable liability protections for businesses and healthcare providers related to COVID-19.
Another priority for Scofield is renewing certain economic development incentives; the Alabama Jobs Act is set to expire on December 31, 2020, and the Growing Alabama Tax Credit expired as of September 30, 2020.
An additional priority for Scofield is ensuring that federal coronavirus stimulus payments to Alabamians is not taxed by the State.
Generally, Scofield will be looking for anything “that will help Alabama’s business community — both large businesses and small businesses — get back on their feet and get people back to work.”
“That has to be our priority,” he noted. “Along with that, I believe that broadband is critical in rebuilding Alabama’s economy.”
Scofield, a longtime advocate for rural Alabama, is known in the legislature as a champion of increasing access for all Alabamians to affordable, high-speed broadband internet services.
“I think that we will focus on expanding Alabama’s broadband infrastructure,” he said on Tuesday.
These are the kinds of priorities that could very well end up with overwhelming bipartisan support. Scofield spoke to the “working relationship” and personal friendship he has with Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro).
Scofield concluded, “While I am certainly majority leader and my focus is — and will be — on the Republican members of the Alabama State Senate, Senator Singleton — the minority leader — and I have a great working relationship. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and his colleagues. While we agree on some things and disagree on others, there is no reason we can’t work out our differences on the Senate floor and in the committees of the Senate; and when we leave that chamber, there’s no reason we can’t leave as friends.”
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Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn