The State GOP Path to Senate Conquest

Come Wednesday morning the state GOP hopes to find itself with a Senate majority for the first time in 136 years. I’ve listened carefully enough in the right corners that I can tell you how the GOP believes that can happen.

In the 35 seat Senate, a caucus needs 18 votes to have a majority.

Five Republican incumbents are unopposed: Arthur Orr in SD 3, Jabo Waggoner in SD 16, Jimmy Holley in SD 31, Tripp Pittman in SD 32, and Rusty Glover in SD 34. Two more Republicans will be entering the Senate without any opposition: state Rep. Cam Ward in SD 14 (in the seat Hank Erwin vacated to run for Lt. Gov) and Slade Blackwell in SD 15 (in the seat last held by Republican Steven French).

The GOP feels quite good about its chances in six other races:

  • Paul Bussman in SD 4 (against incumbent Zeb Little),
  • Greg Reed in SD 5 (against Brett Wadsworth for the seat vacated by Republican Charles Bishop),
  • Clay Scofield in SD 9 (against Tim Mitchell for the seat vacated by retiring Democrat Hinton Mitchem),
  • Del Marsh in SD 12 (against Wallace Wyatt),
  • Scott Beason in SD 17 (against Tommy Hudson),
  • Dick Brewbaker in SD 25 (against Doug Smith for the open seat vacated by retiring Republican Larry Dixon).

Only two of those are GOP incumbents (Beason and Marsh) but Republicans have felt quite good about their chances in these elections.

The Republicans believe with only some less confidence than they have in the above races that they are likely to win two more races:

  • Bill Holtzclaw who is challenging Dem Tom Butler in SD 2, and
  • Incumbent Ben Brooks in SD 35 (against Scott Buzbee)

If you are keeping up, you know that these total 15 seats. If they win those 15, then the keys to winning the Senate lie in three district races that the GOP believes are clearly leaning their way:

  • SD 21 where state Rep. Gerald Allen is challenging Democratic incumbent Phil Poole,
  • SD 27 where former Dem Tom Whatley is challenging Democratic incumbent Ted Little, and
  • SD 30 where Bryan Taylor is challenging Democratic incumbent Walking Wendell Mitchell

Those three Democratic Senators have served a combined 76 years or nineteen terms in the state Senate, and the GOP believes they are poised to send them packing.

Victories in all of the above races would give the GOP 18 votes necessary to claim a Senate majority.

In addition, four other Republicans could provide either a larger majority or a cushion in case the Dems pull surprises in any of the above races. Incumbent Paul Sanford in SD 7 (fighting off a challenge from Jeff Enfinger), Phil Williams in SD 10 (against Dem incumbent Larry Means), Gerald Dial in SD 13 (against Greg Varner for Democrat Kim Benefield‘s old seat), and Danny Joyner in SD 22 (against incumbent Marc Keahey) are in races that the GOP believes are leaning their way.

Other races could go their way as well, but here is the path that the GOP sees to a Senate majority.

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Identifying Legislative Seats in Play for 2010

July’s REDMAP Political Report [.pdf] from the Republican State Leadership Committee contends that nationally in 2010 Republicans will pick up control of four legislative chambers, that Democrats will not pick up any, and that twelve chambers controlled by Democrats (including Alabama’s House and Senate) are “solidly in play.”

The report explains, “The REDistricting MAjority Project (REDMAP) is a program of the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) dedicated to winning Republican control of state legislatures that will have the most impact on Congressional redistricting in 2011.”

According to the report, three open state Senate seats in Alabama are in play, one held by a Republican and two held by Democrats. In addition, seven Democratic incumbents and two Republican incumbents hold seats are in play. The GOP needs to pick up a net of three Senate seats to control the chamber.

Let’s see… There are more than three open Senate seats, so they must be keying on SD 5 (being vacated by Republican Charles Bishop), SD 9 (Democrat Hinton Mitchem), and SD 13 (Democrat Kim Benefield) as the ones in play.

The two Republican Senate incumbents whose seats are in play must be Paul Sanford (SD 7) and Jim Preuitt (SD 11).

Now the seven Democratic incumbents whose Senate seats are in play… they must be Tom Butler (SD 2), Zeb Little (SD 4), Phil Poole (SD 21), Ted Little (SD 27), Wendell Mitchell (SD 30), and… hmm… a Republican familiar with the situation confirms that the last two are Lowell Barron (SD 8) and Larry Means (SD 10). Those two and Marc Keahey in SD 22 were the threesome I was trying to choose among for the last two spots.

On the state House side… The GOP needs to pick up a net of 8 seats. The Report offers that four open seats held by Democrats are in play in Alabama. They must mean four of these five: HD 8 (being vacated by Bill Dukes), HD 9 (Ron Grantland), HD 26 (Frank McDaniel), HD 85 (Locy Baker) and HD 92 (Seth Hammett). I suppose HD 85 is the one not being included.

The Report also contends that seats held by nine Democratic incumbents are in play. I suppose they mean Mike Curtis (HD 2), Henry White (HD 5), James Fields (HD 12), Ken Guin (HD 14), Jeff McLaughlin (HD 27), Jimmy Martin (HD 42), Lesley Vance (HD 80), Betty Carol Graham (HD 81), and Terry Spicer (HD 91).

No House seats held by Republican incumbents are indicated to be in play though I believe the argument could be made that David Grimes (HD 73) or possibly DuWayne Bridges (HD 38) are as vulnerable as, say, James Fields.

The full report is here in .pdf form. The website for the Republican State Leadership Committee is here.

If you would like to play along with the home version of the game, the 2010 House Elections Directory and Senate Elections Directory may be helpful though the ratings of the districts found there (lean Dem, likely GOP, etc.) are overdue for review.

Retiring Bishop 'Hangs it Up'

Maybe we can get to some of these interesting tidbits out of the primary elections that so far haven’t found mention here. (I was travelling last week and a little slow climbing back into the saddle this week.)

As interesting as any to me is that outgoing state Sen. Charles Bishop (R – Arley) was defeated in his attempt to claim the Republican nomination for House District 14. The Tuscaloosa News runs down Bishop’s noteworthy resume’, pointing out “he was elected to the Senate as a Republican in 2006, held the Senate seat for eight years as a Democrat in the 1980s, ran for governor twice and was elected agriculture commissioner in 1998.” Bishop was at one point said to be considering a run for governor this year.

According to the Tuscaloosa News, with this loss Bishop will step out of political life. “I get the message,” Bishop said. “It’s time for the old man to hang it up and enjoy retirement.”

Bishop will be remembered for his passion, most famously on display when he punched state Sen. Lowell Barron on the Senate floor in 2007. Prior to that incident, he had challenged one colleague to settle differences in the men’s room, challenged another state Senator to step outside before they were separated by security, and had missed with a swing at yet another state Senator on the Senate floor. Bishop was said to be motivated to enter the House race by personal animosity toward Democratic incumbent Ken Guin.

Newcomer Richard Baughn, a UPS truck driver, won the Republican nomination for House District 14 and will challenge Guin, the House Majority Leader for the last quadrennium.

Sen. Charles Bishop punches Sen. Lowell Barron in 2007

 

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Top Ten Oddities of the Alabama Primary Campaigns

We have had several oddities during the primary season. I present this Top Ten list, but because we strive to be better, in this case 20% better, it is a Top 12 list (unranked).

  • State Rep. Thomas Jackson (D – Thomasville) is receiving a primary challenge from another Thomas Jackson. At his request, the incumbent will be listed on the ballot as “Thomas ‘Action’ Jackson.”
     
  • Republican gubernatorial candidate Dr. Robert Bentley wanted to get around the Republican Party’s ban on titles appearing on the ballot and so legally changed his first name to “Dr.”
     
  • Longshot Agriculture Commissioner candidate Dale Peterson (R) had his web ad go screaming through the internet. Best ad of the race? Of the Alabama primary? Of the year anywhere in the country? No, some called it the best campaign ad ever (see here and here). Though Politifact raised some questions.
     
  • Noted Democrat Paul Hubbert of AEA set up a front group called True Republican PAC to run ads attacking Republican gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne for, among other things, not being conservative enough and wanting evolution taught in schools. Yes, that’s a left-winger paying for ads complaining that Byrne is “another liberal politician trying to look conservative.”
     
  • From the Creative Endorsements Department… The campaign of Republican Congressional candidate Les Phillip announces that Phillip is endorsed by the National Veterans for Republicans, an outfit created by his brother. The group was established after Phillip announced his candidacy. Brian at Flashpoint tells the story.
     
  • Republican gubernatorial candidate Roy Moore gained 1700 followers on Twitter in one day. And speaking of oddities, you should check out who he has been following on Twitter (or at least was at the time I drafted this post): In looking at about two dozen of the thousands that he is following, I found a Senior Web Manager for a department store in London, an entrepreneurial lawyer from Morelia, Mexico, Ms. United States of 2008-09 (from NY/NJ), a cigar-smoking Israeli woman who co-founded Twitter Analyzer, and a Nairobi, Kenyan who is making the easiest money and wants to tell you how you can too. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
     
  • A new and mysterious group called the New Sons of Liberty set the Alabama political world abuzz when it reserved TV ad time in the last days of the campaign for an ad buy of more than a million dollars. Speculation ran rampant about what candidate(s) would be the beneficiary or target of the ad buy, but the ad buy was cancelled the day before it was supposed to begin.
     
  • The campaign of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ron Sparks put out a press release [.pdf] saying that “[Primary rival Artur] Davis pays kool-aid-drinking bloggers to misinform the rest of us, claiming that the gaming positions of Ron Sparks and Artur Davis are IDENTICAL.” Really? Bloggers are getting paid by a candidate? What bloggers? How does the Sparks campaign know this? I found this to be a fairly extraordinary claim to put out in a press release, but the Sparks campaign never responded to my email with these questions. Left in Alabama had a lot of fun with it though – including surveying state bloggers on the matter.
     
  • Last June, GOP Congressional candidate Les Phillip held a fundraiser with Mike Huckabee as the speaker and lost over $25,000 on the event.
     
  • Republican state Senator Charles Bishop stepped down from the Senate and decided to run for the state House in House District 14 – apparently because of his dislike for incumbent Ken Guin, the House Majority Leader for the Democrats.
     
  • Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim James told staffers of the University of Alabama student newspaper in an off-handed remark that as governor he would not cut the salary of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban. (James’ father Fob was a football star at rival Auburn.) All well and good, but after his campaign tweeted, “Dispelling another untruth from the Byrne camp: I will neither be firing nor cutting Coach Saban’s salary if elected,” the remark went supernova. After re-tweets, an explosive radio segment with Paul Finebaum (who said “James turned a mild tempest in a teapot into a nuclear war”), and finger-pointing, we find James at a press conference wearing a “Saban Rules” cap. Alabama politics and Alabama football… when worlds collide.
     
  • In the trial of Judge Herman Thomas, state Senator Vivian Figures and her son testified against Thomas. He was acquitted, and now Thomas is challenging Figures for the Democratic nomination for the Senate District 33 seat. Nothing personal, I’m sure.
     

Note that we didn’t even get into the oddities of the Tim James commercials with the pauses, the ambling, and the unusual pacing of the ads that made this parody so fun.

I’m sure I’ve overlooked some oddities that should be included. What would be on your list?

Rating the State House Races

The House Elections Directory is updated with ratings for the races.

Out of 105 races, 50 are rated as Safe, Likely or Lean on the Democratic side, and 49 are on the Republican side.

Watch for upsets of course, but the race for 53 seats and control of the state House for the next quadrennium may turn largely on six seats (1, 2, 8, 14, 85, and 91).

  • HD 1 is open as Rep. Tammy Irons (D) is running for the Senate. It wouldn’t take much to nudge this into the “lean Dem” category where some believe it belongs already.
  • First term Democratic incumbent Mike Curtis is being challenged by former state Rep. Lynn Greer in HD 2.
  • Democratic Rep. Bill Dukes announced his retirement in HD 8, and then reconsidered. He faces two Republican challengers. Without Dukes, this race probably is rated on the Republican side. With him, many Democrats feel very good about their chances.
  • Two Republicans are vying to unseat House Majority Leader Ken Guin in HD 14, including state Sen. Charles Bishop who is making a bid to switch legislative houses.
  • In HD 85, four Democrats and two Republicans compete for the seat being vacated by Democrat Locy ‘Sonny’ Baker who is running for Senate District 28.
  • Republican challenger Barry Moore hopes the demographics of HD 91 will help him unseat Democratic incumbent Terry Spicer.

House District 5 is one to watch. First-term Democratic incumbent Henry White is getting a challenge from three Republicans and an independent. The demographics appear to be moving the district to the right, and Republicans are particularly excited to have popular Athens Mayor Dan Williams in the race who they believe is quite capable, or even likely, of claiming the seat for the GOP. Democrats note that White went through three tough races (primary, runoff, general) in 2006 when he won the seat and believe that he should not be underestimated. What factor will independent Jerry Hill, also from Athens, play? While partisans will make strong arguments that the rating should be moved to the right or to the left, the rating here for now is “Lean Republican.”

Here is a summary of how the races stack up.

Alabama State House Races
Safe DEM Likely DEM Lean DEM Toss Up Lean GOP Likely GOP Safe GOP
3
17
18
19
23
28
32
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
65
67
68
69
70
71
72
76
77
78
80
82
83
84
89
97
98
99
103
7
13
16
29
37
39
61
90
12
21
22
27
35
42
81
1
2
8
14
85
91
5
9
26
38
45
63
73
86
92
4
24
30
36
40
43
47
62
75
87
93
6
10
11
15
20
25
31
33
34
41
44
46
48
49
50
51
64
66
74
79
88
94
95
96
100
101
102
104
105

See the entire House Elections Directory here.

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Sen. Charles Bishop to Challenge House Majority Leader Guin

Boxing BellState Sen. Charles Bishop has qualified to challenge Democratic House Majority Leader Ken Guin in House District 14. Bishop announced almost a year ago that he was hanging up the gloves and retiring from the state Senate. Last year he was at one point considering throwing his hat into the ring as a gubernatorial candidate.

Now he’s answering the bell for another round, this time for a House seat. (We had heard he might.) Why would Bishop step down from the Senate to run for the House? Most people would rather be in the Senate than the House, given a choice. “He hates Guin. He just hates him,” a Montgomery insider responds to the Parlor.

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Governor’s Race Shaping Up

Seal of the Office of the Alabama GovernorKay Ivey’s announcement today gives the Republicans five candidates vying for the nomination in the 2010 governor’s race: Robert Bentley, Bradley Byrne, Ivey, Tim James, and Roy Moore.

A GOP Senate insider had told the Parlor about eight weeks ago that a GOP state Senator was considering entering the race “in six to eight weeks.” This week the Senate insider confirmed that it was Charles Bishop who was considering the race, and that Bishop has decided to pass.

This leaves ADECA Director Bill Johnson as the only Republican known publicly to be still considering the race. Hard to picture him elbowing his way through that crowd into a run-off for the nomination, but then again the more crowded the field gets the easier it gets to imagine a scenario where someone unexpected makes it into a run-off.

The wild card on the Republican side looks to be Roy Moore. He will have a fervent core of support, and the unanswered question is whether that core has sustained its size to a degree that it can propel Moore into a runoff, or whether it has shrunk to the point that he will not be a major player. Moore is a polarizing figure in that I run across few people neutral on the idea of his candidacy. Given that, it’s hard for me to imagine a scenario where he could attract enough supporters in a run-off to claim the nomination.


On the Democratic side, I tip my hat to Sue Bell Cobb who has played her cards so close to the vest that we are only left to guess as to her intentions. But since we can only guess, I will: I have never thought it made any sense for her to enter the race, and so I still suppose that ultimately she won’t. One reader with some familiarity with the situation tells me that she has not confided her intentions to staff members. That’s a smart move for stemming leaks, but not good for reassuring staff members who, according to one email I received, “haven’t had a good night’s sleep since her name was first announced.”

Politico.com today has an article today on the Anybody But Artur Davis (ABAD) contingent of Democrats:

Alabama Democratic Conference Chairman Joe Reed and Alabama Education Association Executive Secretary Paul Hubbert confirmed to POLITICO this week that they had been holding meetings with potential Democratic primary challengers to Davis, a four-term congressman who is widely regarded as the leading contender for his party’s nomination.

To say that Reed and Hubbert, two Montgomery-based power brokers who have dominated the state’s political scene for decades, have little love lost for Davis would be something of an understatement. The 41-year-old Birmingham congressman has made a habit of attacking the state’s political establishment, which puts his campaign squarely at odds with not only the current Republican administration but also two of the most powerful Democrats in Alabama.

Question: how much money would Hubbert have to put into a primary race to help a candidate defeat Davis? And won’t that represent money that he’s not putting into legislative races in a year when the GOP is aggressively promoting the idea that it can take over the legislature? (This is another reason why a Cobb candidacy is a win all the way around for the GOP.)

If Artur Davis wins the nomination, some down-ticket Democrats may feel a need to distance themselves from Davis, but you have to imagine that party loyalists Hubbert and Reed will come around and support him.

Ron Sparks tells George Talbot in so many words that he’s content to play the tortoise in the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, and Talbot is right that underdogs are not out of it. As for other Democrats, it’s not too late by any means for another to enter the race, but Davis has set an aggressive enough tone for the race that other challengers (short of the stature of Cobb) probably won’t want to let grass grow under their feet.

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Is Charles Bishop Hanging Up the Gloves?

Charles BishopState Sen. Charles Bishop (R – Arley) will not seek re-election to the Senate. Is he hanging up the gloves or moving up a weight class? Rumors persist that he will run for Governor. Nothing in his comments reported at al.com discourages that belief.

Keep up with who is running and who might be running for his seat in our 2010 Senate Elections Directory.

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Bishop Didn’t Know Anything About C of CC

The Council of Conservative Citizens is like the campus bad boy whose dates say afterward, “Why, I had no idea he was like that. He seemed so nice on the phone when he asked me out.”

This time it was state Sen. Charles Bishop (R – Arley):

Bishop said in an interview Monday that he didn’t know any­thing about the Council of Conser­vative Citizens when he accepted the invitation to speak.

He can get in line behind former U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, and Judge Terri Willingham among those who distanced themselves from the CofCC when their connections to it became public.

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Right Leads with a Bishop

Charles BishopState Sen. Charles Bishop (R – Arley) has led with a right, but last week the far right led with him when the Council of Conservative Citizens had him as a keynote speaker at its Leadership Conference in Sheffield.

The CCC is out there far enough that in 1999, “the chairman of the Republican National Committee called on his fellow party members today to resign from the Council of Conservative Citizens, saying ‘it appears that this group does hold racist views.’” He was being politic; the organization is regularly described as a white supremacist group (for example, here, here, and here).

You may remember the controversy that arose when Republicans Trent Lott (then in the U.S. Senate) and Bob Barr (then in the U.S. House) spoke before the CCC some years ago; they both quickly distanced themselves from the group. (Barr later released a letter he wrote to the group saying, “I find your views on racial issues repugnant,” and “If I had been aware white supremacist views occupied any place in the Council’s philosophy, I would never have agreed to speak.”) Closer to home, Judge Terri Willingham solicited votes before the group in 2006 and then said she had never heard of it. (She went on to win election to the the Court of Civil Appeals, Place 3.)

Most politicians prefer to avoid the controversy and stay away from the CCC’s welcome mat. Is there any other elected state official that would accept such an invitation? And does Bishop endorse their views?

Read one account of the event here. The CCC website has video here.

Hat tip to Daily Dixie and Parlor reader Pecan Jim.

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Bishop to Rules Committee?

Traditional Theater Masks for Tragedy and ComedySenate Minority Leader Jabo Waggoner (R – Birmingham) may appoint Sen. Charles Bishop (R – Arley) to the Senate Rules Committee. The Senate Minority Leader may designate Senators to take his place on standing committees (see examples here) and two Parlor sources confirm that Waggoner is telling colleagues that he is considering appointing Bishop to the Rules Committee since Senate Democrats stripped Bishop of committee assignments yesterday.

Keep in mind that the Senate Rules Committee is chaired by Bishop nemesis and sparring partner, Sen. Lowell Barron (D – Fyffe).

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Bishop to Castle and Mate

Charles BishopOn the first day of the Senate’s session, Sen. Charles Bishop (R – Arley) left (presumably for home and family) saying he would consult with a lawyer and be back next week. This after the Senate passed a resolution, saying

if a senator hits another senator, staff member or citizen in the Statehouse, then a majority of the Senate may vote to have security accompany the senator into and out of the Senate chamber and while moving around the chamber.

After 10 legislative meeting days, the Senate can vote by a two-thirds margin to remove the security escort, provided the senator has completed an anger management course.

The article adds, “Bishop said that provision was aimed at him.”

You think?

Another item that is no small thing:

Also, the Democrat-controlled panel that determines senators’ committee assignments pulled Bishop off most of the Senate committees where he served, including the important General Fund budget committee.

I have said before and I still believe that if I were a member of Bishop’s district, I would be concerned about his ability to pass legislation important to me or my district. It’s a Democratic-controlled Senate, and he hit the powerful Rules Chairman in the head. (And was celebrated for doing so). Now he’s stripped of most committee assignments…

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Senate Finishes Off the Punch

Charles BishopThe Senate Ethics Committee is finished with the matter of Sen. Charles Bishop punching Sen. Lowell Barron in the head on the Senate floor last year. They did not refer the matter to the full Senate.

Birmingham News:

The committee had two non-public options – issue a private warning or determine that no misconduct occurred.

Little would not say whether the committee issued a private reprimand to Bishop, saying that complaints are supposed to be confidential.

Associated Press story here.

Tuscaloosa News here.

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Legislator Censured for Using Physical Force

Rocky Mountain News today:

The Colorado House voted 62-1 Thursday to censure [Rep. Douglas] Bruce for kicking a Rocky Mountain News photographer on the House floor last week.

The censure resolution rebuked the Colorado Springs Republican for violating House decorum and “ordinary standards of decency” by using physical force against Javier Manzano as the photographer crouched before the standing Bruce during the ceremonial morning prayer.

Boxing Glove Landing a PunchAccording to the article, “Censure is the harshest penalty a lawmaker can face – short of ouster or jail for contempt.”

The near-unanimous condemnation for what Rep. Bruce calls a “nudge” stands in contrast to the situation with Sen. Charles Bishop (R – Arley) here in Alabama. Since Sen. Bishop punched Sen. Barron on the Senate floor last year, there has not yet been any consequence (or even a recommendation of one from the Senate Ethics Committee), Gov. Riley wants the event forgotten, and Republican legislators are said to be willing to shut down the legislature if the Democratic majority punishes Bishop. Oh, and Sen. Bishop received a standing ovation at a GOP event afterward. And a trophy.

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Ethics Committee Considers Bishop Today

Charles BishopThe Senate Ethics Committee met privately today to discuss what position to take regarding the punch that Sen. Charles Bishop (R – Arley) landed on Sen. Lowell Barron (D – Fyffe) on the floor of the Senate last year.

Helen Hammons* tells the Political Parlor that the Committee adopted new operational rules regarding complaints which will take effect after this matter is resolved. Sen. Zeb Little (D – Cullman) said that he believes this matter will be resolved before the session begins on February 5. Sen. Scott Beason (R – Gardendale) said there would be a decision next week.

Charles Bishop is hopeful the matter will be concluded next week, according to Hammons. He adds that we can’t have what happened happening again but also that something has to be done about verbal as well as physical abuse.

Hammons added, “There was a lot going on behind the scenes but they all tried to appear bipartisan. I think they’re feeling pressure to do something. The Democrats are not going to get what they want, but there are a lot of different feelings as to what should be done.” Three votes are necessary to warn Bishop; four votes would be necessary for any stronger recommendation.

The Committee will meet again on Thursday, January 31.

Besides Beason and Little, members of the committee are Kim Benefield (D – Woodland), Jim Preuitt (D – Talladega), and Bobby Singleton (D – Greensboro). Preuitt is one of the so-called dissident Democrats who caucuses with Senate Republicans.

*Readers may remember Helen Hammons fondly from when she blogged about political matters at the Goat Hill Gazette for WSFA-TV.

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Putting Students First

As you know, a very important piece of legislation will be presented for our consideration in the House tomorrow in Montgomery – Senate Bill 310 – the “Students First” tenure and fair dismissal reform bill. Like me, many House members have been inundated with phone calls and emails from opponents of this bill, and some have been [...]

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