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Opinion | State Senate leaders

This week we will talk about the prominent members of the very powerful Alabama Senate.

The floor of the Alabama Senate during a special session. JOHN H. GLENN/APR
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Last week we discussed the Alabama House of Representatives and highlighted the leaders in the House.

This week we will talk about the prominent members of the very powerful Alabama State Senate.

To begin with, the State Senate is made up of 35 members. The body is overwhelmingly Republican. There are 27 Republicans and a mere eight Democrats. This qualifies for what is called a super majority Republican State Senate.  

Our Alabama Constitution is very antiquated and rests all power, even local power, in the legislature. That means that an inordinate amount of legislative time is spent on local legislation. Passing local legislation is not a major problem for legislators from rural and smaller counties. However, that is not the case for Alabama’s most populous county, imperial Jefferson.  

The state’s largest county is very diverse and therefore this legislative delegation is diverse and divisive. It has been my observation over the last 60 years that Jefferson County has had internal fights over their local issues, and it spills over onto the floors of the House and Senate. During my 16 years in the legislature, it was not unusual for an entire legislative day to be consumed while we watched Jefferson County legislators embroiled in an intense debate over whether alcohol could be served on Sunday in their county, while very important state issues languished.

For the first time in my memory, two legendary Jefferson County State Senators, Jabo Waggoner, and Rodger Smitherman, have forged a bipartisan working relationship that has made for a harmonious working partnership for the good of Jefferson County and the state.

State Senator Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia, is the Dean of the Senate. He is one of the most respected and accomplished state Senators in Alabama history. Indeed, he has the longest tenure of legislative service in the history of the state, 50 years. Jabo Waggoner also chairs the Senate Rules Committee, which sets the agenda for the Senate. 

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Jabo is in an elite leadership group of the Senate, which includes President Pro Tem Greg Reed, R-Jasper, Education Budget Chairman Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, and General Fund Budget Chairman Greg Albritton, R-Escambia. The new majority leader of the Alabama Senate is Senator Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro. He is well respected and meshes well with Pro Tem Greg Reed.

State Senator April Weaver, R-Bibb/Shelby, is doing an excellent job as Chair of the Health Committee. Senator Tom Butler, R-Huntsville, is a veteran legislator and is looked to on health issues, along with Senator Weaver.  

Senator Will Barfoot, R-Pike Road, is doing excellent work as Chairman of Judiciary.  Senator Dan Roberts, R-Jefferson, has become the go to leader on business issues and is a workhorse senator. Senator Tim Melson, R-Florence, is a medical doctor, who is very well liked and respected. He is effective and a good team player.  

Senator Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman, is doing an excellent job. He is young and has a bright future. Senator Sam Givhan, R-Huntsville, is a quiet, effective leader who does not seek glamor, but gets things done. He is head of the Legislative Council for the entire legislature. Senator Andrew Jones, R-Cherokee/Etowah, and Senator Randy Price, R-Lee County, are workhorses for their districts.  

Senator Clyde Chambliss, R-Autauga, is a stellar leader in the Senate. He is a favorite of Governor Kay Ivey. Chambliss has been the Sponsor of most of the major legislation including Prisons and Roads over the past few years. Senator Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, continues to be a strong conservative voice for Tuscaloosa. Senator Donnie Chesteen, R-Geneva/Houston, is an outstanding senator. He, like, Givhan is quietly effective. He gets things done for the Wiregrass.

Freshman Republicans Josh Carnley, R-Coffee, Jay Hovey, R-Auburn, and Keith Kelly, R-Anniston, are fast studies and well-liked team players.

Senator Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, is a very likeable and effective minority leader. He is aided by the aforementioned Senator Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, as well as respected and revered senate leaders, Senator Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, and Senator Billy Beasley, D-Barbour.

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Newcomers to the Senate Merika Coleman, D-Bessemer, and Kirk Hatcher, D-Montgomery, have become immediately effective having served previously in the House. The State Senate is full of leaders.

See you next week.

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 www.steveflowers.us.

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