Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse – Organizational session, legislative leadership, and potential new stars

  Alabama lawmakers have met for their organizational session and elected their leadership for the next four years.

  Both the House and Senate leadership groups remain essentially the same as the last quadrennium.

  Senator Del Marsh, R-Anniston, was elected Senate President Pro Tem. Senator Greg Reed, R-Jasper, remains Majority leader. Senator Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia continues as Rules chairman, and Senator Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, will again be Chairman of Finance and Taxation/Education. The only new leader will be Senator Greg Albritton, R-Escambia, who will be chairman of the Senate General Fund Committee.

  The House leadership is completely intact. Representative Mac McCutchen, R-Madison, was reelected as Speaker of the House. Veteran legislator Victor Gaston, R-Mobile, will be Speaker Pro Tem. Representative Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, will be chairman of the General Fund Ways and Means Committee. Representative Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, will chair the Education Budget Committee. Representative Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, will set the House agenda as Rules Committee chairman, and Representative Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Dekalb, will serve as majority leader.

  Representative Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville, will be the House Minority Leader, and Senator Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, will be Senate Minority Leader. There a good many new House members and Senators. Approximately 30 percent of the House of Representatives is comprised of new members.

  The freshman class of state senators has 13 new members. That makes up one-third of the 35-member body. There are 11 new Republicans and two new Democrats in the Senate.

  This new class of legislators has some potential stars. First on most lists in the Senate is Sam Givhan from Huntsville. Givhan is the grandson of legendary Black Belt Senator Walter C. Givhan. He comes to the Senate with not only a strong pedigree but extensive leadership experience. He is a successful economic developer and attorney. He has been chairman of the Madison County Republican Party.

  Senator Will Barfoot of Montgomery will be an able replacement for Dick Brewbaker in his Montgomery, Pike Road, Autauga, Elmore, and Crenshaw district. He is an attorney by profession and is open, affable, and very likable. He may be as popular as Brewbaker. He carried every box in his district against a viable opponent. 

  Young Garlan Gudger will be a quick study and will be a stalwart bulldog for his Cullman and Northwest Alabama district. He has deep roots in Cullman County and has a bright future.

  Senator Donnie Chesteen moves over from the House to the Senate. His Wiregrass district encompasses all of Dothan and Houston and Geneva Counties. He is a native of the area and is very popular. He is a former coach, knows his people, and has not become aloof. He is humble, accessible, and a thoughtful decisive legislator. He will fit in well in the Senate and will probably stay a while.

  Senator Chris Elliott of Baldwin will be immensely effective. He has been a Baldwin County Commissioner and will be a fierce advocate for the coastal area.

  Senator David Sessions from Mobile moves from the House to the Senate. He is a successful farmer and will be an effective voice for the Gulf Coast region. 

  Centre Senator Andrew Jones, is very sincere. He will be an ardent worker for his Etowah/Cherokee district.

  Newly elected Senator Dan Roberts, R-Mountain Brook, is a successful businessman who has been active civically in Jefferson County for years and will be serving in the Senate as a public servant.

  In the House, Representative David Wheeler from Vestavia has been around Alabama politics for 40-years. This will be a small learning curve for him.

  Young Will Dismukes of Autauga appears on most lists of potential rising stars. He has a bright future.

  Wes Allen from Troy has been Probate Judge of Pike County. He is young and has governmental experience. 

  Tracy Estes from Marion County will be a diligent and effective representative for his Northwest Alabama district.

  Several of the freshman House members have governmental experience. Jeff Sorrells has been mayor of Hartford. Rhett Marquis from Coffee County comes from the Enterprise City Council. Rex Reynolds from Huntsville has a lot of law enforcement experience. Many observers point to Ginny Shaver of Cherokee County as a real leader to follow.

  When it comes to young legislative stars, the two brightest are still Bill Poole of Tuscaloosa on the Republican side and Anthony Daniels from Huntsville for the Democrats.

  About the author: 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 He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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