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Steve Flowers: Leaders of the Alabama Senate

Last week, we discussed the Alabama House of Representatives and highlighted the leaders in the House.

This week, we will talk about the prominent members of the very powerful Alabama State Senate.

To begin with, the State Senate is made up of 35 members. The body is overwhelmingly Republican. There are 27 Republicans and a mere eight Democrats. This qualifies for what is called a super majority Republican State Senate.  

Our Alabama Constitution is very antiquated and rests all power, even local power, in the Legislature. That means that an inordinate amount of legislative time is spent on local legislation. Passing local legislation is not a major problem for legislators from rural and smaller counties. However, that is not the case for Alabama’s most populous county, imperial Jefferson.  

The state’s largest county is very diverse and therefore this legislative delegation is diverse and divisive. It has been my observation over the last 60 years that Jefferson County has had internal fights over their local issues, and it spills over onto the floors of the House and Senate.

During my 16 years in the Legislature, it was not unusual for an entire legislative day to be consumed while we watched Jefferson County legislators embroiled in an intense debate over whether alcohol could be served on Sunday in their county, while very important state issues languished.

For the first time in my memory, two legendary Jefferson County State senators, Jabo Waggoner, and Rodger Smitherman, have forged a bipartisan working relationship that has made for a harmonious working partnership for the good of Jefferson County and the state.

State Sen. Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia) is the dean of the Senate. He is one of the most respected and accomplished state Senators in Alabama history. Indeed, he has the longest tenure of legislative service in the history of the state, 50 years. Jabo Waggoner also chairs the Senate Rules Committee, which sets the agenda for the Senate. 

Jabo is in an elite leadership group of the Senate, which includes President Pro Tem Greg Reed (R-Jasper), Education Budget Chairman Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), and General Fund Budget Chairman Greg Albritton (R-Escambia). The new majority leader of the Alabama Senate is Sen. Steve Livingston (R-Scottsboro). He is well respected and meshes well with Pro Tem Greg Reed.

State Sen. April Weaver (R-Bibb/Shelby is doing an excellent job as Chair of the Health Committee. Sen, Tom Butler (R-Huntsville) is a veteran legislator and is looked to on health issues, along with Sen. Weaver.  

Sen. Will Barfoot (R-Pike Road) is doing excellent work as Chairman of Judiciary. Sen. Dan Roberts (R-Jefferson) has become the go-to leader on business issues and is a workhorse senator. Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence) is a medical doctor, who is very well liked and respected. He is effective and a good team player.  

Sen. Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman) is doing an excellent job. He is young and has a bright future. Sen. Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville) is a quiet, effective leader who does not seek glamor, but gets things done. He is head of the Legislative Council for the entire Legislature. Sens. Andrew Jones (R-Cherokee/Etowah) and Randy Price (R-Lee County) are workhorses for their districts.  

Sen. Clyde Chambliss (R-Autauga) is a stellar leader in the Senate. He is a favorite of Gov. Kay Ivey. Chambliss has been the sponsor of most of the major legislation including Prisons and Roads over the past few years. Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa) continues to be a strong conservative voice for Tuscaloosa. Sen. Donnie Chesteen (R-Geneva/Houston) is an outstanding senator. He, like, Givhan is quietly effective.  He gets things done for the Wiregrass.

Freshman Republicans Josh Carnley (R-Coffee), Jay Hovey (R-Auburn), and Keith Kelly (R-Anniston) are fast studies and well-liked team players.

Sen. Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) is a very likeable and effective minority leader. He is aided by the aforementioned Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) as well as respected and revered senate leaders, Sens. Vivian Figures (D-Mobile) and Billy Beasley (D-Barbour).  

Newcomers to the Senate, Merika Coleman (D-Bessemer) and Kirk Hatcher (D-Montgomery) have become immediately effective having served previously in the House.  The State Senate is full of leaders.

See you next week.

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

 

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