By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
2016 is over, and 2017 is here. 2016 was a year full of big political news, and we at The Alabama Political Reporter anticipate 2017 to be no less intense.
The election of Donald Trump (R) as President of the United States was the biggest national news story of 2016, and has caused enormous repercussions in Alabama. Below are some of the questions we are asking ourselves as we begin the new year…
1.) Will US Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) be confirmed as US Attorney General? If so, who does Governor Robert Bentley (R) appoint to replace him? Will there be a special election this year or will Bentley try to wait until 2018?
2.) Disgraced former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) is expected to appeal his landmark 12-count convictions for felony ethics violations and will ask the court to allow him to remain free during the appeal. Will Hubbard ever go to jail?
3.) Will President Obama pardon or commute the sentence of former Governor Don Siegelman? If not, the former Governor is expected to be released sometime this year.
4.) Will the Montgomery Grand Jury indict Governor Robert Bentley for either the Rebekah Caldwell Mason affair or the firing of Spencer Collier? If the Gov. Bentley is indicted, will he resign, or be impeached by the legislature?
5.) Will the Alabama Legislature pass the Governor’s $800 million bond issue to build new prisons?
6.) Gov. Bentley said that Alabama’s public schools “suck.” Does he have a plan to do something about it?
7.) The legislature passed a charter school bill last year. When will that translate into actual charter schools, and will the legislature continue to expand school choice this year?
8.) We reported last year that a Special Grand Jury was looking into allegations of corruption involving the Birmingham Waterworks Board. Will that Grand Jury return any indictments?
9.) A new President means new U.S. attorneys for Alabama. Who will President Trump appoint to those positions?
10.) The Alabama Political Reporter has covered a number of investigations into State Legislators who were allegedly using their offices to grow their private businesses and campaign funds for personal expenses. Will there be indictments?
11.) For years, Alabama Medicaid has been a massive drain on the State General Fund (SGF). Will President Trump and his Health and Humans Services appointee reform Medicaid so that block grants are sent to states without forcing them to produce matching funds?
12.) Will Republicans in Congress repeal and replace Obamacare? If so, will that benefit the thousands of Alabamians who currently do not qualify for Medicaid and cannot obtain healthcare coverage under the Patient and Protection Affordable Care Act?
13.) Will President Trump push to roll back regulations which have cost Alabama coal miners jobs?
14.) Will suspended Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) win his appeal and be restored to head the State’s court system?
15.) Donald Trump will appoint new judges to the Federal bench, which includes a Supreme Court Justice. How will those appointments change federal court rulings?
16.) Will Nancy Worley and Joe Reed remain in power, or will new leadership move in to help revitalize the Alabama Democratic Party?
17.) The Alabama Supreme Court has clarified the State’s gambling situation with recent rulings. What does this mean for Victoryland and Greenetrack?
18.) The Obama Administration has argued that the Poarch Creek Indians casinos in Wetumpka and Atmore are legal under Federal law, and has shielded the tribe from Alabama’s gaming laws. Will that change when President Trump appoints the leadership at the Bureau of Indian Affairs?
19.) Term limits prohibit Gov. Robert Bentley from running again. Who will qualify to be Alabama’s next Governor? Lieutenant Governor? Attorney General? Treasurer? State Legislature election primaries will be early next year.
20.) The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II attack fighter is projected to be the most expensive weapon system in the history of the world. President Trump has suggested that fighter production could be cut short and replaced with an improved variant of the much more proven Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet at tremendous savings. What would be the impact on Alabama, where aerospace defense contracting is a major industry?
21.) Will President Trump’s proposed naval buildup lead to more jobs for Austal’s shipyard in Mobile?
22.) The US Supreme Court rejected Alabama’s legislative redistricting plan and sent it back to the trial court. When will a new plan be submitted to the courts, and will that make Democrats more competitive?
23.) Disgraced former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard used his power to block legislation, promoted by conservatives, including repealing the controversial Common Core standards, allowing Alabama residents to keep loaded guns in their vehicles and protecting Confederate monuments from politically correct city councils. Will new Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) be more friendly to the most conservative members of his caucus?
24.) The troubled State General Fund (SGF) has struggled to raise revenues. The State’s troubled corrections system and State Medicaid Agency have both needed more funds than were available. The Legislature has raided rainy day accounts, trust funds and the education budget to find more revenue and has also raised taxes on nursing home beds, prescription drugs, and cigarettes and cut other General Fund agencies to prop up Medicaid and the prisons. What is the plan for the 2018 SGF budget?
25.) As always, teachers, State workers, and State retirees want raises. Will the Legislature find funds for those raises, or will they have to tighten budgets again?
26.) In 2017, former Rules Committee Chairman McCutcheon was a major backer of a gas tax increase to provide county commissions with more money to spend on road projects. That plan died in the legislature. Now, McCutcheon is returning as Speaker. Will his tax increase be reintroduced in the 2017 legislative session?
These are just a few of the issues that we, at The Alabama Political Reporter, will be reporting on this year.