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Who Will be the Next Speaker of the House? Will Bentley Call Medicaid Special Session? Lottery?

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Former State Representative Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) has only been removed as the Speaker of the House for 20 days and the legislature doesn’t meet for a regular session for seven months, but already factions (both legislators and lobbyists) have been forming in a frenzy over who will be elected the next Speaker.

Rep. Victor Gaston (R-Mobile) became the Speaker of the House automatically by virtue of his position as Speaker pro tem, when a Lee County jury found former Speaker Hubbard guilty of twelve felony ethics violations. Gaston has since announced that he does not want the job long-term.

Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark), the Chairman of the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee is a candidate to be the next Speaker. On Wednesday, Chairman Clouse told WTVY’s Ken Curtis that Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) might call a special session this month to deal with the Medicaid crisis and that solution could include a lottery proposal. Clouse said, “I’ve heard talk that he may want to try put a lottery on there.”

Chairman Clouse warned however that, “A lottery is not going to solve the problem next year. …We don’t even know if it would pass or if there is time to get it on there” (for the November ballot).

The Governor claims that he needs another $65 million in the 2017 fiscal year to adequately fund the state’s long troubled state Medicaid agency. If there is a special session called in the coming weeks, the legislature likely will take up the Speaker of the House issue.

State Representative Phil Williams (R-Huntsville) has already announced that he wants the position. Rep. Williams challenged Mike Hubbard for the slot earlier this year; but the majority of the Republican Super Majority voted to keep Mike Hubbard despite the fact that he was facing 23 indictments for felony ethics violations. Mike Hubbard responded by removing Williams as committee Chairman.

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State Representative Allen Farley (R-McCalla) announced on social media that he is backing Williams.

Rep. Farley wrote, “Phil Williams is THE ONLY State Representative who was willing to stand up against Mike Hubbard AND GIVE UP a committee chairmanship. Now THE OPPORTUNITY to make a REAL DIFFERENCE is in the hands of the other members of the Alabama House of Representatives. It’s crystal clear! Create a new and hopefully better SYSTEM with Phil Williams, or STAY THE SAME. Phil Williams is a man of integrity and vision for A BETTER Alabama for EVERYONE. (I can assure you that THE MONTGOMERY INSIDERS are just as afraid of Rep Phil Williams as THE WASHINGTON INSIDERS are of Donald Trump.) Phil Williams will definitely have my support and my vote. God Bless America and God Bless Alabama!!!”

Rep. Williams told the Alabama Media Group’s Mike Cason: “I’m the guy standing for change, I think the members know a vote for me is a vote for a complete overhaul of the system, and the system is broken.”

Powerful House Rules Committee Chairman, Mac McCutcheon (R-Capshaw) has also announced that he wants the position. Chairman McCutcheon said, “My goal is to lead a legislative process that will promote the interests of all Alabamians so that we can restore honor and integrity to our government.”

Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham) is also seeking the position, even though the Republican Party has a supermajority of seats in the body.

Rep. Lynn Greer (R-Rogersville) is also a candidate. Greer has been making waves recently as the Co-Chairman of the legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Pensions, which has been studying the long term solution to the $15 billion funding gap in the RSA.

State Senator Jim McClendon (R-Springville) introduced a lottery proposal in the 2015 legislative session and recently told a group in Sylacauga that he plans on reintroducing lottery legislation either in a special session, if we have one, or in the 2017 regular legislative session.

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Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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