While much of the country — and the world — reacts to the “Fire and Fury: Inside the White House” book by Michael Wolff that depicts President Donald Trump as lacking in judgment, not very smart and possibly mentally unstable, our Alabama Legislature began its 2018 session this week.
Because it is an election year, many legislators are predicting a short session that could end by late April. The reason is so that they can spend more time campaigning for the June 5 primary. Speculation is that there will be significant turnover in the 2018 elections for the 35 seats in the Senate and 105 in the House.
Senate Majority Leader Del Marsh, a Republican from Anniston, believes there will be as many as 10 changes in the Senate and perhaps 25 in the House.
For that reason, don’t expect much controversy with the legislative agenda that the Republicans dominate to the extent that in recent years Democrats were basically excluded from the process.
That was particularly true when House Majority Leader Mike Hubbard was calling the shots before being convicted of 12 felony violations of using his office for what amounts to personal gain. He was removed from office and is out on bond awaiting the outcome of his appeal, which most observers doubt he will win. Then it will be off to prison for the Auburn resident.
One of those offices up for grabs is the District 82 race, currently held by Democrat Pebblin Warren of Shorter in Macon County. She has held that seat since Johnny Ford stepped down from the post after being elected Tuskegee’s mayor in 2004 for a sixth term.
Ford, who was defeated for an eighth term as mayor in 2016 by Tony Haygood, wants his old seat back and has been actively campaigning — even before qualifying officially began on January 8. Also saying he’ll run for Warren’s seat is Tuskegee businessman Terrence Johnson, who has run for several offices but has never won.
Warren was quoted in the Montgomery Advertiser that “This being an election year, and with a little uneasiness as to how Doug Jones (Democrat) defeated Roy Moore (Republican), they’re concerned about their elections, too,” in reference to Republicans running for office and the likelihood of session shorter than normal.
That means legislators will have to focus on passing budgets for education and the general fund — the main responsibilities of the House and Senate.
Other agenda items that should be priorities are funding prisons, possible pay raises for teachers and state employees, children’s health insurance, Medicaid, an increase in the gasoline tax for much-need infrastructure and child care centers’ safety.
Warren introduced a bill last year that would have increased inspections for exempt day care centers, many with religious affiliations. After passing the House, the bill was defeated in the Senate behind opposition from Eagle Forum, a conservative group.
She plans to bring the bill back this session with hopes it will gain traction. Warren told the Advertiser that “At the end of the day, I think it will come together. Hopefully, we’ll see positive results.”
As usual, the legislature faces funding challenges and partisan politics. Voters will have their say this year if they believe those representing us are getting the job done. Or, as Marsh suggests, there may be some significant changes ahead.
Guy Rhodes is editor and publisher of The Tuskegee News. He is a former recipient of the Distinguished Alabama Community Journalist Award and multi-time winner in the Alabama Press Association contest for Best Editorial Column or Commentary. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org