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Steve Flowers: Players to watch in the House as session opens

The 2024 Legislative Session has begun this week. It can last three and a half months to May 20.

The Alabama Legislature is a very conservative body. It has super Republican majorities in the Senate and the House. The Senate is made up of 27 Republicans and a mere 8 Democrats. The House has 77 Republicans and 28 Democrats. Therefore, the budget that is produced is very conservative and prudent. 

Alabama is one of only a handful of states that has two budgets. We have both an Education Budget and a General Fund Budget. Passing these two budgets is the only constitutional mandate required of the legislature in their annual Session. The budget chairmen in each body are very powerful. They basically craft the budgets.

The budget chairmen in the House are Rex Reynolds, R-Huntsville, who heads the General Fund and Danny Garrett, R-Trussville/Jefferson who writes the Education Budget. In the Senate, Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Escambia), chairs the General Fund and Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), who crafts the Education Budget. These gentlemen are prudent and competent in their budgeting.

Speaker of the House Nathaniel Ledbetter has built an excellent leadership team that works well and delivers results. General Fund Chairman Rex Reynolds was the police chief of Huntsville, then city administrator of the state’s largest city. He has taken to his job like a duck to water.  Education Budget Chairman Danny Garrett is a successful businessman, who looks after the Education revenue as though it is his own money. Speaker Pro Tem Chris Pringle (R-Mobile) is a very active Pro Tem.  He has emerged as an outspoken leader. Rules Chairman Joe Lovvorn (R-Auburn) has become a real leader in the House. He is universally liked with a winning personality. 

Three major committee chairmen in the House are doing a very good job.  Rep. Jim Hill (R-Moody/St. Clair) chairs the Judiciary Committee. As a former judge, he is perfect for the post.

Rep. Paul Lee (R-Dothan) chairs the Health Committee. This is the appropriate committee for a Dothan Representative since healthcare has become the most important industry for the hub of Wiregrass. Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) chairs the House Education Committee. Collins is a former banker and has become the go to lady on Education matters.

Veteran Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark) continues to be held in high esteem in the House. He mentors new legislators. Andy Whitt (R-Harvest/Madison) is a close ally of the Speaker and is emerging as a leader, as is Rep. Matt Simpson (R-Mobile) Simpson is a former prosecutor and took the lead in passage of tough anti-fentanyl legislation. Reed Ingram (R-Pike Road) is a powerful force in a quiet way. He usually wins at whatever he is after.

The following House members have become leaders, also. Randy Wood (R-Anniston), Randall Shedd (R-Arab), Ginny Shaver (R-Cherokee), Tracy Estes (R-Winfield/Morgan), Rhett Marques (R-Enterprise), David Standridge (R-Hayden), David Faulkner (R-Mountain Brook), Jim Carns (R-Birmingham), Arnold Mooney (R-Shelby), Corley Ellis (R-Columbiana), Debbie Wood (R-Valley), Alan Baker (R-Escambia), Chris Sells (R-Butler), and Chris Brown (R-Mobile) are veteran conservative leaders. Chris Blackshear (R-Russell), Jeff Sorrells (R-Hartford), Margie Wilcox (R-Mobile), David Shaw (R-Vestavia), Cynthia Almond (R-Tuscaloosa), and Jamie Kiel (R-Russellville) are very popular and successful legislators. New young Republican stalwarts to watch are Scott Stadthagen (R-Decatur), Corey Harbison (R-Goodhope), James Lomax (R-Huntsville), Troy Stubbs (R-Wetumpka/Elmore), and Ben Robbins (R-Sylacauga).

Several freshmen, who came to the House with some experience and have been immediately effective, include Marcus Paramore (R-Troy), Susan Dubose (R- Hoover), Leigh Hulsey (R- Helena) and Bill Lamb (R-Tuscaloosa).

By far, the most effective Democrat in the House is Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville). There are quite a few veteran Democratic leaders in the House.  Most of them are ladies and they have been in the House of Representatives a long time. Leaders like Laura Hall (D-Huntsville), Barbara Boyd (D-Anniston), Mary Moore (D-Birmingham), Pebblin Warren (D-Tuskegee) and Berry Forte (D-Barbour) would be hard to replace.

Other Democratic leaders are Prince Chestnut (D-Selma), Thomas Jackson (D-Thomasville), Kelvin Lawrence (D-Hayneville), Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa), A.J. McCampbell (D-Marengo), Mayor Sam Jones (D-Mobile), and Napoleon Bracy (D-Mobile).

There are three freshmen Democrats from Montgomery who bear watching: Penni McClammy, Kenyatte Hassell, and Phillip Ensler.

Steve Flowers’ weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers.  He served 16 years in the state Legislature and may be reached at [email protected].

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