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Steve Flowers: Legislature organizes for quadrennium

The Legislature had its four-year organizational session this month. It is exactly what the title states: They are organizing for the next quadrennium of lawmaking. They officially chose their leadership and adopted the rules for the two chambers.

The 105-member House of Representatives and 35-member State Senate are elected for four-year terms – the same as the governor and other constitutional offices. However, unlike the governor who was sworn in Jan. 16 which is set out in the state Constitution, the Legislature takes office the day after they are elected in November.

The state House of Representatives will have 77 Republicans and 28 Democrats. That is a veto-proof, bulldozer-shoving, anything you want supermajority. The Democrats have very little say with those overwhelming numbers.

Two days after they were elected in November, the 77-member Republican majority met in a private caucus meeting in Montgomery and selected its leadership. Therefore, the vote for Speaker of the House two weeks ago was simply a formality.

The House chose Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter to be Speaker. Ledbetter hails from Rainsville in DeKalb County. He is a former mayor of Rainsville. He has only been in the House for eight years, having been first elected in 2014. He was chosen to be the majority leader in the House in his freshman year. He was close to former Speaker Mac McCutcheon and served on the powerful agenda-setting Rules Committee and the Ways and Means Education Budget Writing Committee.

Rep. Chris Pringle of Mobile was elected Speaker Pro Tem of the House, the second-highest position within the body. He has served 16 years in the House and succeeds fellow Mobilian Victor Gaston in this post.

There are two young stalwarts, who will be serving in Republican Party positions within the
House. Rep. Scott Stadthagen of Decatur is the majority leader and Rep. Wes Kitchens of Arab will serve as the Republican Leadership Caucus vice chair. Rep. Debbie Wood from Valley will serve as the Republican Caucus secretary/treasurer.

The three most powerful posts in the House are the chairmanships of the two money committees and the agenda setting Rules Committee. Rep. Danny Garrett of Trussville in Jefferson County will continue to Chair the Ways and Means Education Budget Committee. Rep. Rex Reynolds of Huntsville will be the General Fund Ways and Means Chairman. Reynolds replaces longtime Ways and Means Chairman Steve Clouse of Ozark. Rep. Joe Lovvorn of Auburn is the new Rules Committee Chairman.

Rep. Jim Hill of St. Clair will chair Judiciary. He is a former circuit judge and a veteran of the House. All of these House leadership positions are held by Republicans. To the victor goes the spoils.

The Democrats have a veteran and sterling team heading their caucus leadership in the House. Anthony Daniels of Huntsville will be the Democratic minority leader. Barbara Drummond of Mobile will be the caucus chair. Mary Moore of Birmingham will be vice chair and Kelvin Lawrence of Hayneville will be secretary/treasurer of the Democratic Caucus.

The 35-member Alabama State Senate returns almost intact with their continuity and quality leadership. They will dominate and provide a stable state of ship to help lead the state.

Republicans control this upper chamber to the same degree that the GOP members do in the House. Republicans outnumber Democrats 28-7 in the Senate.

State Senator. Jabo Waggoner of Jefferson County begins his 50th year in the Legislature. This is a state record. He is definitely destined for the state history books. Jabo will continue to chair the powerful Rules Committee.

Greg Reed of Walker County will be Pro Tem of the Senate again and the majority leader will again be Clay Scofield of Marshall County.

The two money committee chairmen will continue to be in charge of how the state revenues are spent. Sen. Arthur Orr of Decatur will chair Finance and Taxation/Education and Sen. Greg Albritton of Escambia will chair Finance and Taxation/General Fund. These two men will be very powerful.

Popular Sen. Will Barfoot of Pike Road will chair Judiciary in the Senate. Sen. Clyde Chambliss of Prattville has become a stalwart leader in the Senate. He will be majority whip. Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth presides over the Senate.

The regular session begins in early March.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers’ weekly column appears in more than 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state Legislature. Flowers may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

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