June 12, 2024 - Although Lottery Vote Failed, 2024 Legislative Session Successful

Even though the will of most Alabama voters was thwarted by a minority of Republican Legislators disallowing their constituents the right to vote on a lottery, the Session was a success. 

The legislature was thrown a myriad of major issues and they dealt with them in quick order. The paramount factor in any session is whether the two budgets are passed and passed prudently. They were and they are prudent. Ever since Republicans took the majority in the Alabama House and Senate in 2016, our state budgets have been sound, balanced, and fiscally responsible.

There is an old tried and true maxim that it is more difficult to craft a budget when there is a surplus than when there is a shortage or lack of funds. This truism has been at play for the last three years. There has been a tremendous amount of money flowing into the state coffers for budgeting. Excess COVID federal money, along with rampant inflation, have given Budget Chairmen, Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), Representative Danny Garnett (R-Trussville), Senator Greg Albritton (R- Poarch Creek), and Representative Rex Reynolds (R-Huntsville), a flush hand to deal with. They have done a good job of delving out the money wisely and prudently. They have set aside monies for rainy days in the future because what goes up will come down.

The first major issue to come up was the so called, “School Choice Bill.” This is a very popular political topic among Republicans. A good many Republican states have accepted this measure, and our super majority Republican legislature did not want to be left out. The new law sailed through both chambers of the legislature swiftly and easily.

All this law does is take education dollars from public school districts and give tax breaks to well heeled parents to send their children to private schools. Privately most mainstream and majority of Republican legislators held their noses and voted for this even though they were not totally sold on it. Many told me this was a tougher vote than voting “yes” to their Constituents being allowed to vote on a lottery.

Understandably, Republican legislators who hail from excellent public schools like Vestavia, Auburn, Enterprise, all North Alabama, including Huntsville, Madison, Athens, and Decatur, are being asked to steer money away from their proud public school system to folks in Montgomery to send their children to private school.

The most significant legislative package passed was the “Working for Alabama” laws. These job-creating and futuristic economic development initiatives were all passed expeditiously. They were introduced halfway through the session, and Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter and Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed did a yeoman’s job of shepherding them towards passage.

These workforce bills were truly a bipartisan effort spearheaded by the Business Council of Alabama. The photos of the introductory rollout of the bills included both the Republican leadership and the Democratic leadership. In the photo were BCA Head Helena Duncan, Gov. Kay Ivey, Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth, Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter, President Pro Tem Greg Reed, Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, and House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels.

The bills included a tax credit program to help remedy a shortage of quality affordable childcare that makes it harder for single mothers to work or return to work. The bill authorizes tax credits for employers who invest in childcare centers for their employees. Another part of this initiative creates an Alabama Workforce Housing Tax Credit. These credits are intended to be incentives for developers to build housing that offer rent that would be affordable for people entering or returning to the workforce.

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth led a commission that developed many of these ideas, and House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter appointed a labor shortage study group. Ainsworth’s and Ledbetter’s collaboration worked well to accomplish passage of this important legislation.

The Education Budget was the largest in state history. It provides a 2% raise for education employees across the board and makes the starting pay for teachers more than $46,000, which is the highest starting salary in the region.

The General Fund Budget is also a record high. It gives a 2% cost of living raise to all state workers. Under Alabama State Employees Association Executive Director Mac McArthur’s watch, state employees have garnered a COLA raise six out of the last seven years. 

See you next week.

June 5, 2024 - Legislative Session Fails to Let Alabamians Vote on a Lottery

The regular Legislative Session ended on May 9, with final passage of both budgets, which is the only constitutionally mandated requirement of the legislature during its annual legislative session.

However, there was another constitutional question that dominated the session – the perennial issue of whether Alabamians will ever be allowed to purchase lottery tickets in Alabama and keep Alabamians money within our state. This money could help educate Alabama children, pave Alabama roads, and remedy the closing of our rural hospitals. However, these Alabama dollars currently are going to our four surrounding states of Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi, who all allow the purchase of lottery tickets. 

Alabama is now one of only four states in America that do not have a lottery. It comes as no surprise that most Alabamians – both Republicans and Democrats – find this absurd. In fact, 80% of Alabamians, when polled, say they adamantly want their legislators to vote in favor of simply giving Alabamians the right to vote on whether to keep their lottery dollars at home. This same reliable polling reveals that the Alabamians in favor of a state lottery, also attend church up to two times a week and already gamble on sporting events and drive out of state to purchase lottery tickets. This is especially true of people under 50. 

Today, most Alabamians see nothing irreverent or wrong, much less sinful, about buying a lottery ticket or betting on a football game. What they do find appalling is that their children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews, who are successful in school, could go to college tuition free if they lived next door in Georgia.

Georgia’s Hope Scholarship Program, created 25 years ago through a statewide lottery bill, provides free college education for their students. At this point, Alabamians have educated untold numbers of Georgia students. It is no coincidence the largest outlets for purchasing lottery tickets are located along Georgia’s Alabama border. 

The same holds true along Florida’s Alabama border. The people in Dothan and the Wiregrass, alone, have probably paved most of the roads throughout the panhandle of Florida.

Therefore, the question remains, if 80% of Alabamians want the right to vote on a lottery and our state leaders are fully aware that unregulated and untaxed gaming already exists in our state, why did the lottery vote fail yet again during this year’s annual legislative session? Because Special Interests got involved.

Unfortunately, most of the 140 members of the legislature are being falsely accused. The vast majority voted in favor of allowing Alabamians the right to vote on whether to keep gaming/lottery dollars in Alabama. However, because the creation of a lottery requires a constitutional amendment, a three-fifths vote is needed for the measure to pass. That means 63 votes are needed in the House and 21 votes in the Senate. The bill passed the House comfortably with a 72 to 29 vote but failed in the Senate with a final vote of 20 to 15. While most Senators voted in favor of the bill, it needed one more vote to pass. 

Based on these numbers, 92 of our legislators voted to let Alabamians vote. Only 44 voted to thumb their nose at their constituents. That is a tough vote to defend, and I suppose most of these legislators are being met by irate constituents. These 44 legislators will have to defend their “no” vote in less than two years. Some of these legislators are veterans, who are entrenched for reelection. However, many of the “no” votes came from newly elected first termers, who now run the risk of not being reelected over this indefensible vote. 

Governor Kay Ivey could decide to give these 44 legislators a chance to redeem themselves by calling a Special Session and spotlighting the lottery/gaming vote. However, at this point, I suspect Gov. Ivey is fed up and frustrated with this issue. If that is the case, she could step aside and let the lion of the legislature, Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter, take the bull by the horns. It is possible. Only one vote is needed in the Senate. Believe you me, there are three or four freshman, back-bench senators, who are feeling the heat at home for their “no” vote. 

Gov. Ivey and Speaker Ledbetter are listening to the outcry from Alabamians. Neither are being deterred by special interests. Kay Ivey has built her legacy by being one of the most honest governors in my lifetime. She has always sided with and acted on what is in the best interests of her fellow Alabamians. 

Hopefully, for Alabama’s sake, you have not heard the last of this issue.

See you next week.

May 29, 2024 - Roads Important and Political

Many of you took to the roads to travel over Memorial Day. I am sure this resulted in rumblings and discourses about the deplorable conditions of Alabama’s roads.  Most of you, if you went anywhere, had to travel on I-65.  Most Alabamians livealong the I-65 corridor.  

I-65 is approximately 366 miles from the Tennessee-Alabama line to Mobile. It is a nightmare.  I can attest to the frustration of being stuck on this highway.  I travel on I-65 from Montgomery to Birmingham at least 100 times a year.  My guess is that I am relegated to being in a parking lot four out of 10 times. I am delayed for important meetings and television interviews.  In recent years I have begun to start my journey an hour early in anticipation of a delay.  When I call to apologize for my tardiness, I end my call with if there is a worse road to travel in the country, I want to see it.

Indeed, I-65 south of Hoover is the busiest road in the state.  According to ALDOTS traffic count, they average 130,000 vehicles per day.  Many of you have experienced this I-65 nightmare, including Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth.

The Lt. Governor and the majority of state senators are advocating for six lanes for the entire I-65 thoroughfare.  The Alabama State Senate recently approved a resolution that urges the Alabama Department of Transportation to prioritize improvements and additional capacity along I-65.  This needs to be a priority for our state.  As the main artery in the state, I-65 is traveled by tourists, truckers, businesspeople, and everyday Alabamians, who simply need to get from Point A to Point B in a timely manner in order to live their lives.  When people are at a standstill on I-65 for hours on end, it hurts our tourism, our economy, and our industrial recruitments.

In defense of Governor Kay Ivey, she has worked to make a difference in regard to Alabama’s roads.  She made passage of a gas tax a priority of her administration and tenure in office.  She has put her legacy in place by rebuilding Alabama with her gas tax/road building initiative.

She was criticized by some for raising taxes.  She displayed political courage and statesmanship, and knew we had to have infrastructure to keep up with other states in growth and economic development.  

However, we may not have gone far enough.  We may not be keeping up with other states.  If she was going to be criticized for a 10 cent a gallon increase, she should have gone for 20 cents.  Then maybe we would be able to compete with our sister states like Florida.

It has recently been brought to my attention an unbelievably amazing fact.  The State of Florida Department of Transportation has 10 divisions and all 10 have the same amount of money.  The panhandle of Florida adjacent to Alabama is one of the 10 divisions.  The panhandle Florida division alone has more money than the entire state of Alabama highway budget.

Florida has built four lanes from the beach to almost the Alabama line.  They are awaiting Alabama meeting them with a four-lane highway 167 through Enterprise and to 231 in Troy. Many of you who traveled to the Florida coast this weekend probably wished that four lane was completed and you were also wishing that I-65 had six lanes.

Speaking of the Florida coast, for many years both political history students and readers have asked me why the panhandle of Florida is not part of Alabama. When looking at a map it appears the panhandle should be a part of our state. Indeed, both politically and demographically, as well as topographically, the panhandle of Florida and south Alabama are one and the same.  

The answer is we were offered the entire panhandle, including the beaches and coastline more than once for almost nothing over a century ago. We refused to take it. At that time, the South and especially Alabama, were totally agriculturally oriented.  Everything was about could you grow crops on land.  Folks looked at the sandy soil and thick brush in the sparsely underdeveloped territory and said anybody would be crazy to want that land.  Plus, it was occupied by Seminole Indians who were fierce and protective of their territory.  Alabamians said hell no to fighting Seminole Indians and thorny bushes for land that was nothing but sand and you could not grow anything onit.  

Well, that sand and beaches are worth something today.  It is estimated that within the next seven years one million new people are going to move to the panhandle of Florida.

See you next week.

May 22, 2024 - Liberal Democrats in Washington Fear Katie Britt

Senator Katie Britt has quickly established herself as one of the most effective, well-respected members of the United States Senate.

In all my years observing state and national politics, I have never seen someone gain esteem on both sides of the aisle as quickly and as genuinely as Britt during her first 16 months in office. Furthermore, she has done it all while being a steady, strong champion for Christian conservative values and priorities that Alabamians hold dear. In recognition of her staunch conservative voting record, Senator Britt was honored with CPAC’s Award for Conservative Achievement this year.

In my pre-Christmas column this past December, I wrote about Senator Britt’s early mastery of her roles on the Appropriations, Banking, and Rules Committees. Through Appropriations, she secured the ninth-most funding out of 100 U.S. Senators – despite the fact she was a freshman member and ranked dead-last in seniority at the beginning of the year. This prowess in bringing Alabamians’ taxpayer money back home and making wise investments in the state’s future is the hallmark of a senior stateswoman, far surpassing Britt’s status as the youngest Republican woman ever elected to the upper chamber of Congress.

Outside of her impressive appropriations acumen, Britt is already running laps around her colleagues when it comes to the art of legislating, too. In recent weeks alone, Britt has seen a handful of her co-sponsored pieces of legislation be enacted into law in overwhelming bipartisan fashion. This includes complex foreign policy bills that crack down on America’s greatest adversaries: China, Iran, and Russia. Britt has emerged as a stalwart advocate for Alabama’s military bases and communities. Britt helped ensure that training funds were not taken away this month by the Biden Administration from the Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker in her native Wiregrass. Britt’s intervention was seen as integral in saving a flight simulation training program from being halted.

It is no secret that Senator Britt has quickly cemented herself as one of the foremost pro-border security, anti-illegal immigration hawks in Washington. She helped lead the FEND Off FentanylAct, which was signed into law in April, alongside Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina.

Katie has been a champion for rural housing affordability and rural infrastructure. She has also made it a personal mission to increase health care access and improve health care outcomesfor rural Alabamians. First, Britt recently partnered with Senator Laphonza Butler, a Democrat from California, to introduce the NIH IMPROVE Act. This bipartisan bill would provide consistent support and resources to conduct important research into America’s maternal mortality crisis and improve health care outcomes for women before, during, and after pregnancy. This type of effort is especially needed in Alabama, where over a third of our state’s 67 counties are classified as “maternity care deserts.” Britt’s introduction of the comprehensive MOMS Act with Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida also speaks to her commitment to solving the challenges facing so many women, children, and families. Sadly, Alabama has the highest maternal mortality rate in the nation. That reality is why Britt has also joined Senator Maggie Hassan, a Democrat from New Hampshire, in introducing the Rural Obstetrics Readiness Act.

Additionally, Britt has co-sponsored a major bipartisan bill to expand coverage of telehealth services through Medicare and make it easier for patients to connect with their doctors. That’s not even to mention the two pieces of bipartisan legislation she has co-sponsored to help all Alabamians access affordable insulin.

Finally, Britt, partnering with Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, introduced the Youth Mental Health Research Act. Britt is a member of the honorary congressional working group for the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Task Force, underscoring her national leadership on a critical topic for America’s children and families.

Unfortunately, you will not hear or see most of these bipartisan efforts by Britt covered by the liberal media. The Nancy Pelosi left wing of the Democratic Party lie and distort the bipartisan pro-women work of Katie Britt. They fear our Katie Britt. The left wing ultra liberals only shoot at worthy targets, and they have Alabama’s Katie Britt in their sights. If you want to know another persons value, just look at who is attacking them.

Britt is an incredibly bright rising Republican superstar, and she is shining a light on the best of Alabama every day. We are fortunate to have a stalwart senator, who simultaneously fights for Alabama’s Christian conservative values and is an effective mover-and-shaker behind the scenes. That is why she was invited to sit at the Senate Republican leadership table. Britt is not only building Alabama’s future – she is our state’s greatest asset today.

See you next week.

May 15, 2024 - Democrat Wins a House Seat in Alabama

The national media has been keenly interested that a Democrat has been elected to an Alabama House of Representatives seat. I have had several inquiries from national news and political publications asking me to explain and analyze this phenomenon. They are particularly interested in the fact that women’s reproductive rights was a central focus of this special election in Huntsville.

Democrat Marilyn Lands indeed won a resounding victory in House District 10, a Madison County seat, in a special election last month. She made woman’s reproductive rights the primary issue of her campaign. 

Alabama is without a doubt one of the most Republican states in America. Every statewide elected office is held by a Republican, and the Republican dominance in the Alabama Legislature is categorized as being a super-Republican majority. Therefore, the lines are drawn to favor Republican incumbents. 

However, I might add, that Democratic incumbents are complicit, and very happily go along with Republicans when drawing heavily favored partisan districts because they entrench them in their seats also. This gerrymandering drawing of Alabama legislative seats is more to protect incumbents, than to help a party. When the dust settled after the last reapportionment, it was recognized and acknowledged that there were only two competitive, swing purple House seats in the state – one in Montgomery and the one in Huntsville, which Marilyn Lands won as a Democrat in last month’s special election.

This Huntsville district is really an anomaly. It is more reflective of the nation than Alabama. Huntsville itself is really like a different state. It is as though the people in the research triangle of North Carolina and the Silicon Valley of California, were plucked up and placed in North Alabama in the super high-tech aerospace City of Huntsville. Ms. Lands’ House District 10 seat sits in the center of the Redstone Arsenal and has the highest percentage of Ph.D.’s in the nation. In fact, a few years ago, I spoke to the Huntsville Rotary Club. It was the largest Rotary Club I had ever seen, probably 300. They met in the Von Braun Civic Center. As I was getting up to speak, my observation was that I was looking at one of the most intellectual and sophisticated Rotary Clubs I had ever seen. So, I posed this question to the group, as I began my talk, “How many of you have an advanced degree, master’s, or doctorate, in aerospace engineering?” Almost half raised their hand. When I began to regale them with past Alabama political stories and legends, they looked at me as though I was talking about politics on Mars. In short, Ms. Marilyn Lands’ district is truly a purple, nationally reflective district. In the 2020 Presidential Election, it split almost evenly between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden.

A special election also blurs the distinction between party labels. There are no heavyweight GOP standard bearers, like Trump and Governor Ivey, on top of the ticket to steer voters to simply voting a straight lever-pulling party vote. It becomes a local vote for the person running the race, similar to a mayor’s race, which is nonpartisan.

Marilyn Lands was a better candidate and campaigner than her Republican opponent. She was an experienced campaigner. She lost a narrow race to her GOP opponent in 2022. She outworked her opponent, significantly. She did run a one-issue campaign. She ran on women’s reproductive rights, and it worked and resonated.

So, in answer to the national media’s inquiry, “Is this a bad sign for the Republican Party, nationally, in this year’s election,” my answer is a resounding, “Yes.” The abortion issue is a losing issue for Republicans. It has been since Roe v. Wade was overturned almost two years ago in June 2022. The proof is in the pudding, Republicans have lost every election since then, when they should have won. That issue was defeated two to one by voters in the most conservative state in America – Kansas. Trump is wise enough to avoid this issue, it is an Achilles Heel to the Republican Party come November. Mainstream women voters, Democrats, Independents, and yes, Republican women want the right to make that choice when it comes to reproductive rights.

Marilyn Lands might have won this Special Election closely because she was a better candidate. However, she would not have won this purple swing national seat with a 62 to 38 landslide, if she had not run on the reproductive issue.

See you next week.

May 8, 2024 - Senator “Coach” Tuberville Quietly Effective

As the end of 2023 was approaching, the U.S. Senate had ignored the custom to adjourn around Thanksgiving for a month-long Christmas break. Instead, they were working right up to Christmas. Our Senior Senator Tommy Tuberville was quietly and effectively maneuvering to get things accomplished with an adroitness exhibited by U.S. Senate veterans.

Alabama’s senior United States Senator has become an adept political operator during his three and a half years in the upper chamber of Congress.  Political observers did not know what to expect when a man, who prefers the title “Coach” to “Senator” came to Washington, and he has surprised many with his ability to get his priorities accomplished.

A good example of the Coach’s savvy occurred in the days leading up to Christmas, as the Senate worked to craft an end-of-year nominations package. These packages often come together at the close of the year and approve multiple presidential nominees for senior executive branch positions in the final days of the congressional session.  Leadership and the Senate’s most senior members control which nominations make it into the package.

Senator Tuberville collaborated with his colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make sure his friend and fellow Alabamian, former 11-term Congressman Spencer Bachus, was included in the package in the final hours of the 2023 session. The Senate operates on the rule of unanimous consent, meaning that a single Senator can throw a wrench into its operations and bring the entire body to a standstill. The Coach has established credibility in the Senate, and his colleagues have come to learn that when he threatens to hold up a legislative package, they had better take him at his word.  This credibility has given him the ability to get things done.

As a result of Senator Tuberville’s efforts, Congressman Bachus was included in the yearend package and confirmed unanimously by the United States Senate for a second term on the Board of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Originally appointed by President Trump, Bachus’ senior leadership role at America’s leading Development finance bank has allowed him to provide financing to strategically important United State companies and industries to ensure the United States remains competitive with adversaries like China.

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed supply chain vulnerabilities in the United States, and the Export-Import Bank has played a key role in helping to fortify domestic supply lines for industries vital to national security.  Thanks to Senator Tuberville’s efforts, Alabama will continue to have a voice at this powerful federal agency in Spencer Bachus.

This yearend coup by Senator Tuberville, to get the revered Jefferson County, former Congressman Spencer Bachus reappointed to the Export-Import Bank, was expedited with the assistance of Coach’s brilliant young assistant Emory Cox. Folks should not underestimate Coach Tuberville.  He is used to working in the trenches.

Alabamians should also not underestimate how close Senator “Coach” Tuberville and former President Donald Trump are. If Trump is reelected, Tuberville will be Trump’s closest ally and friend in the U.S. Senate. Alabama will be in the catbird seat in a Trump administration because of Tuberville.

Former Congressman Spencer Bachus had a successful 22-year run as the 6th district’s congressman. However, his successor, Gary Palmer is doing a Yeoman’s job in this seat. The 6th congressional district is an affluent district, which includes the upscale suburbs of Jefferson County as well as burgeoning upscale Shelby County.

Congressman Gary Palmer is beginning his 11th year in the U.S. Congress. He disposed of two opponents in the just ended March GOP Primary and should have clear sailing for as long as he wants to stay in this 6th congressional district seat. 

Palmer has become a player among the Republican congressional ranks. Prior to going to congress, he founded and ran the very conservative “think tank” – The Alabama Policy Institute. Therefore, he is viewed as an expert on policy issues. He is a leader in the GOP steering committee that sets policy and the agenda for the Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives. He also serves on the very important House Energy and Transportation Committee.

See you next week.

May 1, 2024 - You Do Not Want to Offer the Rebuttal to the State of the Union

Without question, you do not want to be the political sacrificial lamb selected by your party hierarchy to give the rebuttal address in opposition to the Presidential State of the Union address. It does not matter if it is a Democratic stalwart responding to a Republican president or a Republican future rising star responding to a Democratic president. The responder is scorned and ridiculed. This is the rule without deviation.

Our own junior Senator Katie Britt was the subject of this national abuse in February when she was chosen to give the Republican response to Democratic President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address. By the way, the president is generally subjected to the same ridicule as the responder, if not worse. However, most of the slings and arrows hurled at the president and responder are partisan driven.

Our national political stage has degenerated to nothing more than a totally partisan, philosophically driven, theatrical show. We are distinctly two nations, divided almost evenly, between left-wing liberal Democrats, who watch CNN, MSNBC, and Rachel Maddow, and right-wing, ultra conservative Republicans, who watch Fox News and Hannity. 

Very few Americans, much less Alabamians, watch these State of the Union political addresses and rebuttal speeches. They are aware that these are merely political speeches that disrupt their favorite evening television shows. The only reason I tuned in was because as Alabama’s primary political columnist and commentator, I had an obligation to watch so I could intelligently comment on and analyze both speeches when asked to do so by my primary network affiliation. 

The next day the entire left-wing liberal Democratic leaning pundits massacred poor Katie. Even the liberal media writers in Alabama jumped on the bandwagon, although they have minuscule readership. Contrary to the national media, I gave both Biden and Katie glowing reviews. However, in retrospect, I was shocked Biden had the stamina to make it through the hour-long teleprompter political delivery, and Katie was a little over-the-top with melodramatic theatrical expressions.

In the days and weeks following the rebuttal address, more than a few of my liberal readers wrote me and asked why I did not elaborate on Katie’s performance and accused me of being prejudiced in favor of Katie. They said you have always written good things about her and played a major part in helping her get elected. To all of that I plead guilty. I am a Katie Britt fan and always have been. She is the real thing. She is a shining star for Alabama’s future. She exudes leadership, character, and integrity.

Katie has always been a superstar, dating as far back as to when she was Alabama’s Junior Miss. She excelled in everything – including academics, leadership, and dancing – although maybe not acting. I vividly remember the first time I saw Katie on a political stage. It was 24 years ago, when she was an 18-year-old high school student. I was a speaker at Alabama’s Girls State and I witnessed her be elected Governor. The next week I called my old friend, our former Senior Senator Richard Shelby, and told him, “Shelby, I have just met a young lady named Katie Boyd from Enterprise, who has just been elected Governor of Girls State, and she has Governor or U.S. Senator written all over her.” 

Katie went on to be President of the Student Government Association at the University of Alabama, graduated from law school, practiced law, became Shelby’s Chief of Staff, headed the Business Council of Alabama, then became the youngest female Republican U.S. Senator in history. She arrived in the U.S. Senate at age 40 and the national media seized on her and anointed her a national superstar. Thus, the GOP hierarchy thrust her on the national stage and gave her the dubious task of being the GOP responder to Biden’s State of the Union address.

None of this liberal media buzz about Katie’s appearance affects her popularity in Alabama one iota. She remains destined to be our U.S. Senator for the next three to four decades. Hopefully, this episode will deter the national GOP from striving to place her on the Trump ticket in the fall. That path would be devastating for not only Katie’s political future, but Alabama’s as well. 

I also watched the Saturday Night Live spoof of Katie’s rebuttal address. Scarlett Johansson’s impression of Katie was spot on. She was more like Katie than Katie herself. It is no wonder that she is a famous actress. Katie was actually flattered they selected Johansson to portray her.

In closing, Katie’s response was exactly what a real Republican from Alabama would stand for and applaud. If anyone had listened to her speech on the radio and you are a Conservative Christian Alabamian, you would have said, “hallelujah!”

See you next week.

April 24, 2024 - Nathaniel Ledbetter Is a Very Powerful Speaker of the Alabama House

As the 2024 Regular Legislative Session began about three months ago, I had a column entitled “2024 Legislative Session Begins Next Week.”

In that column I highlighted the leadership of the Alabama House and Senate. I said there were three primary leaders, Senator Greg Reed, Senator Arthur Orr, and Speaker of the House Nathaniel Ledbetter. I went on to say the new kid on the block in this triumvirate of power is first term Speaker of the House Nathaniel Ledbetter. Speaker Ledbetter may very well be the most powerful person in the Alabama Legislature.

My prognosis of Mr. Ledbetter was confirmed, emphatically, in the first two weeks of the session, when he shepherded the comprehensive gambling, lottery, and regulation of gaming out of the House of Representatives like gangbusters. This legislation was essentially the same package that Governor Kay Ivey proposed two years ago but was unable to garner the votes for passage. It is a Constitutional Amendment, which requires 21 votes in the Senate and 63 votes in the House. In 2022, Governor Ivey got 23 votes for passage in the Senate, but could not muster the votes in the House under Speaker Mac McCutcheon. 

The gentleman from Dekalb County, Mr. Ledbetter, became Speaker of the House at the beginning of this quadrennium in January 2023. He has molded the House around him. He was instrumental in electing most of the new members. He has become the leader of the House, not through intimidation or strongarm tactics. The House members just like him, trust him, and consider him their friend.

Ledbetter has close allies that hail from his neck of the woods that have become power players around him. Three, in particular, are Andy Whitt (R-Huntsville), Rex Reynolds (R-Huntsville), who is the Chairman of the General Fund Ways and Means Committee, and Majority Leader Scott Stadthagen (R-Decatur). Representative Stadthagen has become a real leader as the Republican Majority Leader. He is young and savvy, and has a bright future – maybe statewide. 

Ledbetter has won the support and trust of the House Democrats, also. I have not seen this kind of bipartisan cooperation and harmony in the lower chamber in a long time, if ever. Ledbetter’s down home, quiet, honest, and compassionate leadership is paying big dividends for the success of the legislature.

His leadership on this gaming issue is one of the most remarkable performances of any Speaker I have ever seen, and I have seen some strong ones in my day. Speaker Joe McCorquodale was strong. He hailed from Clarke County in the southern part of the Black Belt. Ultimately, McCorquodale took his marching orders from Governor George Wallace.

I served in the House under the leadership of another Black Belt Speaker, Jimmy Clark. He was a power and was known as the “Bear from Barbour.” He called most of the shots in the House.

Dekalb County actually had a Speaker of the House before Ledbetter. William Beck, a Fort Payne Lawyer, was Speaker under Governor Big Jim Folsom from 1946 to 1949.

Nathaniel Ledbetter is his own man. He and his fellow House members are representing the vast majority of average Alabamians. They are listening to their constituents, who overwhelmingly want to vote on a lottery. They also know gambling exists everywhere in Alabama, and they believe it needs regulating, and they are also sick and tired of their dollars going to Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Florida to educate their children and pave their roads.

Ledbetter dispatched his lieutenants, Andy Whitt and Chris Blackshear (R-Russell), to travel the state and get input from every angle, especially law enforcement. They talked with all 105 House members and got their input. Most importantly, they left all the lobbyists out of the crafting of their package. They omitted the Indian casino gambling lobbyists from the discussions. This group has a monopoly on gambling in Alabama and is the reason the lottery never gets to a vote of the people. 

When Ledbetter’s gaming, lottery, regulation package hit the floor of the House, it passed 70 to 32. This was an amazing feat, given the fact that the Governor could not even get it out of Committee in the House two years ago. This is one of the most impressive displays of leadership I have ever seen from the Speaker of the House. Make no mistake about it, if Alabamians get the much sought after right-to-vote on a lottery, and regulate gambling in the state, it is because of Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter.

See you next week.

April 17, 2024 - State Leaders all aboard on “Working for Alabama” Plan

Anyone who follows the Legislative Session each year in Montgomery, knows that it is never short of controversy. 

The House has its priorities, the Senate has its own, and governors have theirs. And it is fair to say that those priorities are not always the same. You can take gaming this session as an example. 

However, in this session there is one major push that has brought all our state’s top elected leaders together – an ambitious workforce, economic and community development package called, “Working for Alabama.” 

At an announcement event in Montgomery last month, we saw a rare occurrence: Governor Kay Ivey joining with Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth and the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate to unveil the seven bills that make up the Working for Alabama legislative package. 

So, what will Working for Alabama do?  Let’s start with the workforce development piece. Currently, Alabama has one of the worst labor force participation rates in the nation. Anyone with decent eyesight knows this by seeing the countless “now hiring” signs on the front windows of businesses across our state. 

The jobs are there, we just do not have the people trained and equipped to take those jobs. This is an Achilles heel for our state’s economic growth. A company cannot and will not set up shop in a place that does not have the workers needed to operate. 

This is a real problem, but our legislative leaders have accepted this challenge. Through the Commission on 21st Century Workforce and years of effort, research and study, this commission came out with a report that outlined some commonsense ways that will help create a workforce in Alabama that is second to none. 

The Alabama Workforce Transformation Act would consolidate duplicative state agencies that are currently operating in silos when it comes to workforce, thereby improving efficiency and reducing government waste. The Secretary of Labor would become the Secretary of Workforce and serve as a sort of “quarterback” to make sure these entities are doing their jobs and achieving results. 

You can think of this like a building project. If you have a bunch of independent contractors without a general contractor overseeing them to make sure they are all working efficiently together, that is going to be a pretty sloppy job with mixed results. The same is true for workforce development. 

Working for Alabama also recognizes that a significant number of high school students do not plan to go to a four-year college. Honestly, many of them do not need to. There are high paying, high demand jobs available that do not require a four-year college degree. This is where Alabama’s outstanding Community College System will have a major impact on the success of this plan.  This package would allow high school students to take full advantage of this valuable state resource to obtain credentials and training while in school, so they are able to get a good job as soon as they graduate. This will allow more of our young people to start strong careers through which they can provide for their families and contribute to their communities. 

This package aims to eliminate barriers to employment through a childcare tax credit, so parents do not have to stay at home due to unaffordable childcare services. This has been a priority for House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter and will help countless families. 

Working for Alabama will also make impressive improvements to our state’s current economic development efforts. It will require our state to create an economic development plan that will be regularly updated and receive input from an industry board. A good thing about this piece of the plan is that it will measure success, so our state’s economic development leaders can see if what they are doing is actually working, and if it is not, they will change what they are doing. Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed is leading the charge on this effort. He has been a leader in economic development throughout his tenure in the legislature.

This bipartisan plan will also invest in communities through key resources, such as funding for highspeed internet expansion, industrial site development for industry recruitment, and other key areas. Between the leadership of Governor Kay Ivey, Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth, Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter, President Pro Tem Greg Reed, Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels and others all working together to get this done, the result will truly supercharge Alabama’s economy and workforce for years to come. 

It is good to see all of our state’s top elected leaders coming together and Working for Alabama. 

See you next week.

April 10, 2024 - 2nd District Primary Runoffs This Week

Those of you who live in the new 2nd congressional district have runoffs this coming Tuesday, April 16.  This is the most interesting and entertaining political contest in Alabama this year.  

This new seat is comprised of all of Montgomery County, as well as most of the more rural counties surrounding Montgomery, including Macon, Lowndes, Bullock, Pike, Butler, Crenshaw, Barbour, and Russell.  It continues through rural Black Belt counties like an arrow towards Mobile and gathers most of the Black voters in Mobile.  

This gerrymandered new district was created by the federal courts to implement a new Democratic Black District in the Heart of Dixie.  Currently, we have six Republican congressmen and one Democrat.  If the court plan succeeds with the election of a new Black congressman to join our lone Democrat, Terri Sewell, then we will have two Democrats and five Republicans representing us on the Potomac.  The Democrat will be favored to win this seat come November. 

Alabama has a super majority Republican legislature, which diligently fought the court, to make it a less Democratic district.  However, their arguments to the court were very lame.  The argument that because Mobile County had never been split in half and the county needed to be together because of a “community of interest” flew in the face of what the court was asking for and actually made the plaintiffs’ case for them.  If you know that area of the state, you also know that those seven aforementioned counties surrounding Montgomery have more of a “community of interest” with Montgomery than Black voters in Mobile/Pritchard have with White flight Baldwin County Republicans.

Half of the folks in the counties south of Montgomery have kinfolks, brothers, cousins, and grandchildren that live in Montgomery.  Most of those people have moved from those counties to Montgomery to work or still live there and commute.  They have shopped and gone to the doctor in Montgomery and watched Montgomery television stations for generations.

Bless the folks in Macon County’s heart. The most historic Black city in the country, Tuskegee, along with the rich HBCU Tuskegee University legacy have been stuck in the bottom of the gerrymandered Republican 3rd district for decades with a White Republican congressman from Anniston supposedly representing them.  You cannot tell me that the good folks of Macon County will not be more at home with and better taken care of by having a congressman of their persuasion who knows their interests.

The Democratic runoff will be between Mobilian Shomari Figures and Huntsville State Representative Anthony Daniels.  Some of you may be scratching your head and asking how in the world a Representative from Huntsville is running for Congress in South Alabama. Federal law does not require a person to live in the district to run for Congress. 

A host of Anthony’s legislative colleagues attempted to use this carpetbagging loophole to capture this new open perceived Democratic seat, but it did not work out too well for them. The homegrown boy Shomari Figures trounced them, especially in his home county of Mobile. It did not hurt that Shomari’s mother, Vivian Figures, is probably one of the most popular Democratic State Senators in the history of the Port City. 

One of the more remarkable victories for Figures in the March 5 primary, was the amazing vote he received in Montgomery. Figures campaigned extensively in the two urban vote centers of Mobile and Montgomery and it paid dividends.  He got a whopping 50% of the vote in Mobile. That means he outdistanced all 10 of his opponents combined.  His 40% of the vote in Montgomery was even more amazing. He crushed Joe Reed’s vaunted ADC machine, who backed Mobile State Representative Napoleon Bracy.

Bracy finished a distant third in the race with 15%. It stands to reason that Bracy’s votes will accrue to this fellow Mobilian on Tuesday.  Shomari Figures has a substantial lead going into next week and his lead is probably insurmountable.

In the Republican primary, former Montgomery State Senator Dick Brewbaker led young Attorney Caroleene Dobson 39% to 27%. Brewbaker won most of his votes in his home county of Montgomery where he garnered an impressive 67% of the vote. If Caroleene is to overtake him, she will have to do it in Mobile and the southern portion of the new district.

See you next week.