Inside Alabama Politics – June 3, 2020

Inside Alabama Politics – June 3, 2020

What’s next for Senate leadership?

The Alabama Senate has had its share of smart, strategic, and powerful leaders over the years. From Joe Fine and Ryan deGraffenreid, Jr. to John Teague to Roger Bedford. It has also been the place of wild leadership struggles, including taking away all of the power from the Lt. Governor when Steve Windom was elected as the first Republican to hold that job since Reconstruction, but Democrats still had a majority in the chamber.

There were accusations (some of them even founded) of Dems having to buy off former Sens. Phil Poole, D – Moundville, and Ted Little, D – Auburn, to stay in their caucus in the 2002 and 2006 organizational sessions. Former Senator Lowell Barron, D – Fyffe,  had to cut a deal to put Hinton Mitchem, D – Guntersville, into the President Pro Tem position for two years and then Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D – Birmingham, for the second two of the last quadrennium conducted under Democrat rule. Barron also had to agree to put Sen. Jim Preuitt, D – Sylacauga, into the Rules Chairman job for two of those years to hold onto power, something he would come to sorely regret as Barron and Preuitt ended their time as Senators locked in a personality battle that went beyond partisanship.

Now, though, the numbers of the Republican caucus are so striking, that it is impossible for one body to hold back all the ambition contained therein. For good reason, as many of the Senators elected in 2010, 2014 and 2018 are smart and able legislators who know their districts and know how to make the state government work for them. Many of them have been mentioned as immediate candidates for higher office such as Congress, such as Sens. Clyde Chambliss, R – Prattville, Chris Elliott, R – Fairhope and Donnie Chesteen, R – Geneva.

Which brings us to the current Senate Leadership structure. Sen. Del Marsh, R – Anniston, has been the President Pro Tempore since Republicans took over the Legislature in 2010. He is the proverbial “last man standing” of those whose leadership was instrumental in vanquishing the Democrats who had had control of the Senate for all of modern history. Former Gov. Bob Riley was term limited when the Republicans used his acumen and largesse to bring about the end of the Democratic reign. Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, went from Minority Leader to the first Republican Speaker of the House since Reconstruction to having his convictions upheld for violating the terms of service he fought to bring about. Marsh, who engineered much of the fundraising side of the 2010 effort, is still the President Pro Tempore of the Senate. In many ways, he has been the most consistent top public official during some tumultuous years in state government. Also, by our count he is the longest serving Pro Tem in state history, elected unanimously by his peers to lead the body each of the last three quadrennia.

Still, Pro Tempore means “for a time” and even Marsh conceded at the beginning of this quadrennium in 2019 that he would serve only two more years as the leader of the body. The backstory here is that when Marsh was flirting with running for U.S. Senate in 2017 and again in 2019, other senators started to slice up the leadership pie – because Marsh himself said he was either going to the U.S. Senate or not running again. One of the hallmarks of these types of situations is that members don’t openly plan successions until it becomes crystal clear a succession will be needed.

Majority Leader Greg Reed, R-Jasper, has been waiting in the wings to step up into the top job for years. There was a scramble to see who would filll Reed’s role, and eventually Sen. Clay Scofield, R-Guntersville, seems to have won the Caucus support necessary to secure that position, as IAP previously reported. These are exactly the type of relatively young, extremely ambitious and smartly strategic leadership you would expect to be next in line.

Alas, Marsh did not ultimately run for U.S. Senate. Instead, in 2019 he passed on the race, saying his State Senate work was far more rewarding because the body gets things done. This change of plans made some of those who were angling for a leadership position bristle a bit, but they were assuaged by the two year plan, and Marsh’s leadership of the Senate continued.

Then came COVID-19.

The 2020 Regular Session was unlike any we have ever seen. Many big ticket, legacy pieces of legislation were left to die on the vine because of the need to pass budgets as constitutionally mandated and adjourn sine die. Items like solutions to the intertwined crises of prison conditions and space, and recidivism and mental health. Huge, blanket changes people never thought would come like a medical marijuana bill, the always lurking solution to gambling, and a big broadband push were all left in some form or fashion on the table. Those big bills are exactly the type that only pass with the stewardship of Del Marsh, who in his ten years leading the body has become a master at keeping the body on an even keel and moving forward. And that’s to say nothing of a not-yet-filed education reform bill that promised to serve as another feather in Marsh’s education legacy cap.

So what now? When asked directly by Alabama Daily News reporter Mary Sell, Marsh did not sound like a man who was ready to hand over the reins, though neither does he sound ready to quash the plans of his ambitious colleagues.

“You know, I don’t know, Mary. I had told my colleagues that the first two years of the quadrennium are usually the years to get things done. And I like to be involved in getting things done – that’s just my nature. And if, in fact, the Senate is not going to be a body that’s really looking at any big ticket items, then I may be more than happy to hand that over to somebody else that may want that position, and I could then focus on specific things that are important to me and my district.”

The very nature of the next several sessions, Regular or Special, will need to be guided by people who want to get things done. To a person, the several senators IAP spoke to say Marsh has earned the right to step down as Pro Tem on his own terms. One such member accorded the privilege of anonymity to speak freely opined “[Del] basically propped up the State when we didn’t have a solid governor, speaker of the house or lieutenant governor. He’s dang near an institution himself and he never gets enough credit.”

Another told IAP the way Marsh works with the Democratic Minority is uniquely effective. “The way he is able to work with Rodger [Smitherman] and Bobby [Singleton] is really what keeps the Senate moving, and that is not something someone who steps into that roll can just do overnight.”

The question still remains: What Now? No one is predicting a coup in the Senate Caucus. No one is predicting anyone – Marsh, Reed, Scofield or any other member putting their caucus colleagues in a position to have to vote for one or against another. A transition could happen at the end of a special session in late summer or fall. It could happen at the beginning of the 2021 Regular Session. Or Marsh could give it one last hurrah in 2021, leading the Senate to pass several landmark laws.

Based on our conversations with pols and politicos throughout the state, one thing is clear: that decision will be up to Marsh himself.

Latest Special Session talk

Two months ago, when the coronavirus first shut down the 2020 Regular Session, it was all but guaranteed that lawmakers would return for at least one special session later in the year, maybe even two or three. At the time, Inside Alabama Politics reported that Gov. Kay Ivey had assured lawmakers that she was willing to call as many special sessions as needed to make up for lost legislative momentum on a host of bills, to include the budgets, if need be. But a funny thing happened on the way to the final day of the session: lawmakers passed budgets that most everyone is happy with and then ended amid acrimony towards Ivey after she “threw them under the bus” with the revelation of the legislative “wish list” of projects for coronavirus funds that included a new State House. To say the session ended with some bad blood between the legislative and executive branches would be an understatement.

Some lawmakers, including some top Senate leadership say a special session is not necessary. They argue a few points: the budgets are done, the prison situation is mostly in the hands of the governor / the Department of Corrections now and any other issues can wait another few months until February 2021 when the Legislature reconvenes.

But others said there is business left to handle, including extending a job creation tax credit that in recent years has helped lure companies like Toyota-Mazda, Amazon, Google and Shipt to Alabama. The Alabama Jobs Act, the state’s primary industrial recruitment statute, is expiring at the end of the year. Another popular economic development tool, the Growing Alabama Tax Credit, expires in September.

Top Senate leadership had wanted to get those economic bills done during the remaining time of the regular session, but the House insisted on a “budgets only” agenda that prevented that. Now, some senators say it would be a waste of money to call a special session when the job could have already been done.

“These were bills that needed to get accomplished,” Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, said. “The House was adamant that we weren’t going to do anything but the budgets and local bills.”

Still, talking to the Department of Commerce and other influential members of the business community leads IAP to believe a special session will be needed to reauthorize the economic development laws. Perhaps just as important for the business community will be to pass a coronavirus civil immunity bill to protect businesses from frivolous lawsuits. As IAP previously reported, this promised to be a big fight between business groups and the trial lawyers, but sources say a deal has been worked out to appease both sides.

Don’t book your hotel rooms yet, but Montgomery is lovely during the month of September.

Behind the Confederate monument toppling

As all the world knows by now, a prominent Confederate monument has been torn down and removed from Linn Park by the City of Birmingham. Protestors gathering over the police killing of George Floyd at first attempted to tear the monument down themselves, before moving on to a nearby statue of Birmingham founder Charles Linn. Mayor Randall Woodfin pleaded with demonstrators to stop attacking the statue, vowing that the city would have it taken down within 24 hours.

At this point, it is important to rehash a little history. The Alabama Memorial Preservation Act, passed in 2017, was intended to stop cities and counties from removing monuments dating back 40 years or longer. Of course, that mostly applies to controversial monuments honoring Confederate soldiers that were erected in the late 1800s and early 1900s. This was a much-debated bill during the 2017 legislative session, with various versions going back and forth between the House, Senate and Governor’s office. Many Democrats, at first heavily opposed to the bill, eventually dropped their opposition after securing key concessions.

The first test of the law came when former Birmingham Mayor William Bell erected a giant wooden shell around the monument to obscure it from view. Per the statute, the state sued and the case eventually ended up at the Alabama Supreme Court, which upheld the law, but dramatically curtailed its effectiveness. In his opinion, Justice Tommy Bryan wrote that the law only allowed the state to enforce a one-time $25,000 fine rather than a per-day violation penalty. In his concurring opinion, Justice Mike Bolin went so far as to point out to the Legislature that this law would not serve as the deterrent it was intended to be. It turns out he was correct.

Having made a big promise to protesters, Mayor Woodfin was soon scrambling to figure out how he could keep it. He called a handful of state officials, including Gov. Kay Ivey and Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth asking for advice in how to go about taking the statue down. But, the one tasked with the enforcement of the law is Attorney General Steve Marshall, and the two connected by phone early Monday. According to sources familiar with their conversation, Woodfin relayed his intent to keep his promise and have the statue taken down, with full awareness that the state could only penalize the city with a one time fee of $25,000. Marshall informed Woodfin that he would carry out enforcement of the act and confirmed that all the state could do is sue for a judgement on the one time penalty and that the state had no ability to prevent the city from acting.

So, Woodfin got to keep his promise to the protesters, but it was not some dramatic legal showdown with the state. He knew the limits of the law and cleverly exploited them to achieve something that makes a lot of people in Birmingham happy. Meanwhile, Marshall has the interesting distinction of being called racist by woke demonstrators for carrying out requirements of the act and a traitor by sons of the confederacy types for not laying his body at the feet of the monument to protect it. Instead, he did everything and only what the law required, and as is often the case, the outcome was worked out quietly and calmly behind closed doors. An attempt by the law’s sponsor State Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, to amend the act to allow for a $10,000 daily fine for violations was tabled on the Senate floor in early March and was not seen again.

Sessions and Tuberville duke it out

With just six weeks to go until the delayed runoff to decide who gets to carry the Republican banner into battle against incumbent Democrat Senator Doug Jones, the two remaining candidates have been locked in a pitched battle over a subject very much on the minds of general election voters: Who Loves Donald Trump More?

Some observers might qualify this as a trick question, since Trump has repeatedly repudiated his former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and has reiterated his support for former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville.

Just before the current edition of As America Burns (literally) kicked off in Minneapolis last week, before rubber bullets or tear gas canisters were shot or Cosplaytriots took over the Kentucky and Michigan capitals, Sessions and Tuberville got into a twitter back and forth that threatened to spill over into the real world! (One thing to always keep in mind when scrolling Twitter is that it is not, in fact, Real Life.)

In the weeks leading up to Memorial Day, Sessions’ campaign Twitter account was mostly full of tweets which the main thrust of was explaining his principled reasons for recusing himself from the Trump/Russia Investigations, which lead to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and ultimately Trump’s impeachment by Congress and acquittal by the U.S. Senate. Many impartial legal observers have said that Sessions’ recusal was a matter of necessity based on law and precedent, and some go so far as to opine that if he had not recused, Trump would have been impeached sooner or to greater effect. But President Trump does not see it that way, and therefore neither do the vast majority of Alabama Republicans.

Sessions’ online rhetoric is as strong as it has always been in real life – strangely voters do not seem to doubt Sessions’ conservative bonafides in the least – but is he screaming into the void?

As Alabama was looking to re-open many of it’s tourist destinations and beaches heading into Memorial Day Weekend, Sessions’ campaign jumped at the chance to start a Twitter war with Tuberville, only to awaken the 1,000 Pound Gorilla of Twitter, President Trump himself.

Sessions also tried to push the message via the twittersphere that he, and not Tuberville was the true supporter of President Trump’s words and actions when it comes to the policies of his administration – on such consistent Sessions themes as principle, China, and immigration. He even pulled Tuberville’s campaign media consultants into it, by highlighting their work for the pro-immigration group Forward.US and a statement made by one of the media firm’s partners calling Donald Trump a psychopath that is unfit for office.

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This was all a lead up to challenge Tuberville to a debate – an issue that actually was gaining traction before the current protests exploded nationwide. Tuberville released an ad on the anniversary of Sessions’ recusal highlighting what Trump said about Sessions and claiming Sessions had “failed Alabama.”

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And while Sessions has released an advertisement tying all of this together in a cute :38 second bow, it has about 5,000 views as of press time. Tuberville’s ad accusing Sessions of betraying Trump (helped by POTUS’ retweet) has 1.6M views. A stark contrast, which also illustrates the futility of using Twitter to push campaign messages aimed at moving actual voters.

Sessions, along with his supporters, are in a frustrating spot. The GOP base that was unfailingly loyal to him for decades based on his record and beliefs is now abandoning him over one man’s misguided anger. And even as it seems more important than ever to have experienced statesmen leading the country, most voters are rejecting expertise in favor of “non politicians.” The stars really should be aligning for Sessions: a pandemic that originated in China, an economy in need of tougher trade deals, a conservative politic turning once again towards “law and order.” That’s like a Sessions campaign placard, issue wise, but so far it doesn’t seem to be making a dent.

The latest poll taken by Cygnal in mid-May showed Tuberville leading Sessions 55% to 32% among likely GOP voters. That would indicate that Tuberville has grown his lead since the same poll showed Tuberville with a 51.5% to 39.5% lead over Sessions in early March right after the primary.

Neither campaign is currently up on television, but for Sessions to change the game and have voters decide to give him a pass despite Trump’s strong endorsement of Tuberville, it will take outside events consuming Tuberville, much more than any slick advertisements.

A Fox News Debate?

Over the last week, Jeff Sessions has attempted to change the dynamic in the Senate race by challenging Tommy Tuberville to a debate. Actually, he’s wanting five debates ahead of the July 14th GOP runoff. Of course, Sessions himself resisted calls for a debate back when he was the frontrunner in the primary. One of the oldest rules in politics says that if you’re winning, you don’t debate unless you absolutely have to. Why? Because there’s little to gain and much to lose.

Leading in the latest round of polling, it is safe to say there is nothing for the former Auburn football coach to gain by debating the former Attorney General of the United States, and so now Tuberville is resisting the call for debates. The question is whether resisting a debate starts becoming a big enough problem in voters’ minds to cut into a frontrunner’s lead. That seems unlikely given today’s lazier voter mindset, however one brand in particular could make a difference: Fox News.

Last week, Fox News Sunday reached out to the Tuberville and Sessions campaigns proposing a debate on its highly-rated program. Fox News confirmed to IAP that host Chris Wallace had been in discussions with the campaigns about the proposed debate. Only Sessions accepted the invitation, and his camp attempted to make hay out of the situation saying “If Tommy Tuberville is too scared to debate on Fox News, he certainly won’t be able to debate on the Senate floor.”

The Tuberville campaign tells IAP they are sticking to their guns, saying it’s just bad strategy to debate given his lead in the polls.

Carl gets ALFA nod

While the races for two open congressional seats in Alabama have both been relatively quiet since the election was moved to deal with the logistics of voting during the COVID19 Pandemic, District 1 in South Alabama has picked up some steam in recent days.

Jerry Carl, a current Mobile County Commissioner picked up two big endorsements in the race to succeed Republican Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Daphne. One is from a former opponent in the race, Chris Pringle. The other is from the Alabama Farmers Federation’s FARMPAC.

These are indeed big gets, and could show a movement of momentum to Carl’s side. IAP suggests exercising caution when trying to predict if these endorsements will ultimately determine the winner here, though.

Carl’s opponent is former state Senator Bill Hightower. Hightower had the same groups aligned against him in 2013 when he defeated the sitting House General Fund Chairman Jim Barton in a special election to fill an open state senate seat. Hightower deftly used Barton’s support from ALFA as a cudgel against him – harkening back to homeowners insurance claims and premiums after a succession of hurricanes ravaged coastal Alabama.

In some ways, this race is shaping up to be a battle of in-state versus out-of-state interests. Hightower has the backing of the Club for Growth, which is making an aggressive play in Alabama’s federal primaries this year. The Club’s track record is spotty at best in Alabama. Their true value is the money they can spend attacking opponents rather than organizing for their endorsed candidates. That could make for an interesting test vis a vi ALFA and other state groups supporting Carl who are better known for their grassroots get-out-the-vote efforts.

House District 49

Rep. April Weaver, R – Brierfield, in May announced she was leaving the Alabama House of Representatives to take a position within the Trump administration (more on that below), necessitating a special election to fill her term. Gov. Kay Ivey set the special primary election for Tuesday, August 4; the special primary runoff, if necessary, for Tuesday, September 1; and the special general election Tuesday, November 17.

As of qualifying’s end at 5:00 p.m. Tuesday, six candidates paid the fee to ALGOP and will be on the ballot later this summer:

  • Russell Bedsole is a Chilton County Sheriff’s Deputy and two term member of The Alabaster City Council.
  • James Dean works in Cyber Security and IT, and is a 2020 Delegate to the Republican National Convention.
  • Chuck Martin lives in Bibb County where he owns and operates Rocko Funeral Home in Centerville. His wife, Debbie is the former mayor of Centerville.
  • Jackson McNeely is an art teacher at a private school who operates a business that facilitates arts and crafts for birthdays or holiday parties.
  • Mimi Penhale is the Shelby County Legislative Director – she coordinates the back office and scheduling for the Shelby County Representatives and Senators – and Vice Chair of the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce work group for Government Affairs.
  • Donna Strong is a longtime educator from Chelsea who currently lives in Alabaster.

With a full field, this race could easily go to a runoff. The frontrunners are expected to be Bedsole, Penhale and Martin, both due to their extensive connections within state and local politics. At the moment, no major groups have formally endorsed, but expect those decisions to come soon. Support from groups like the Alabama Farmers Federation, the Business Council of Alabama, the Alabama Forestry Association and the Alabama Association of Realtors can mean a lot in a low turnout affair as this is likely to be. Word to IAP is that Pehnale is likely to pick up some significant endorsements in the coming days.

State revenue drops

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

The coronavirus caused significant, but expected, drops in the collection of various state taxes in May.

Receipts in the state’s Education Trust Fund were down nearly $60 million, 8.13%, in May compared to the same month in 2019.

The COVID-19-caused drop in education budget tax revenues were most noticeable in the sales tax, down $28.7 million, and income tax, down $26.2 million.

Senate education budget committee chairman Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said Tuesday he’s not yet concerned about the numbers.

“We seem to be tracking what was forecast by the economists and budget analysts,” Orr said. “We’ll know a lot more in August, after the July income tax payments for 2019 come in.”

The income tax filing and payment deadline was extended from April  to mid-July because of COVID-19. Meanwhile, many businesses were also given extensions on remitting collected taxes. Because many taxes are collected in arrears, much of the May collection represents April activity.

In the General Fund, receipts were down in May $1.5 million, or .8%, compared to a year ago. One of the largest declines in that fund was a more than 70% drop in the lodging tax as people stayed home and away from beaches during state-ordered shutdowns.

Revenue from the lodging tax is split between the General Fund and an earmark for the Alabama Department of Tourism, which it uses to market the state to travelers. In all, it was down almost $4.8 million compared to May 2019.

But because hotels and other lodging providers also have an extension for remitting taxes, Grey Brennan, deputy director of tourism, said that decline may not be accurate.

“There is no way to know if this is the real number,” Brennan said Tuesday.

Brennan said the department has heard that outdoor facilities, including RV parks, are doing well.

“Some of the hotels that cater to business travelers aren’t doing as well,” Brennan said.

The coronavirus and decline in revenue has altered the tourism’s marketing of the state and its focusing attracting in-state residents and those in neighboring states.

“People are taking shorter trips and going to places they perceive to be safe or safer,” Brennan said.

“…Hopefully some point soon we’ll be back to our normal marketing plan, but we’re not there yet.”

Despite some dips, the General Fund’s revenues are up year-over-year.

“General Fund receipts were basically flat for May, but are still up by over 8% for the year,” Kirk Fulford, deputy director of the Legislative Services Agency, the State House’s budget experts, told Alabama Daily News.

“There could be another dip in June, but revenues in July should pick up due to the delayed tax payments coming due,” Fulford said. “When COVID impacts first started to hit in March, both of the budgets were ahead of estimated revenue projections for the year. And, ETF expenditures for the current year are still about $55 million less than receipts in fiscal year 2019.”

Bud’s to renovate, reopen

There are so few establishments that allow smoking indoors anymore that the ones that do are thought of relics of a bygone age. When most of the IAP readership was growing up, and even when they were attending college, a pack of smokes was a likely necessity to a “good night out.”

As the ravages of tobacco use became clear in the 1990s and beyond, and municipalities and states sought to protect their citizenry from second hand smoke, the proverbial “smoke filled room” has no longer been that of a barroom (but rather the Joe-Ron Room).

Once, the statehouses of America, and even the halls of Congress were festooned with spittoons and ashtrays – and “Big Tobacco” dominated the decisions at the state level long after smoking was banned from workplaces at the federal level. We’re not just talking about usage, but also via donations to campaigns, and fighting off attempts to balance state budgets on the back of tobaccos taxes. Usage has also plummeted — the number of politicians and even lobbyists who openly smoke can probably be counted on one hand – and even Philip Morris has changed its name to ALTRIA to show their diversification as a company (and some would argue mask the real derivation of the funds).

Eventually this “healthwise” approach to public spaces consumed restaurants and cafes, and now it claims one of the last bars in Montgomery where smoking was welcomed.

We speak, of course, of Bud’s. Bud Skinner’s Cloverdale Playhouse. Ye of cold air conditioning, cold drinks, TVs, some of the best bar food available, and SMOKE. Smoke like in Scooby Doo where he uses his nail to cut a hole so he can see through it. Smoke like a Beijing afternoon. Smoke like the kind that permeates your clothes for days on end even if you just stopped in for a quick drink. Twenty or more folks packed at the bar, killing heaters and drinking their tipple of choice. The dinginess is part of the charm.

Well, all good things must come to an end, as they say, and Bud’s will soon re-open as a non-smoking establishment. Crews are right now tearing out all the smoke-filled ceiling tiles and making other renovations in preparation for the reopening. That’s probably a positive for all who frequent the place, but it is the end of an era.

For the uninitiated, the reason this is news in Inside Alabama Politics is that Bud’s is your quintessential political bar. For decades, politicos have frequented the Fairview Avenue watering hole to blow off steam from the legislative session and suck in some smoke. Lawmakers, lobbyists, big time officials and small time upstarts have come to Bud’s to hug, clink glasses and get along, while the very serious gentlemen in the Corner solve the world’s problems.

And like almost everything that has changed, people who love the way it was will bitch a bit, but they’ll adjust. Heck, most of us are so starved for a drink and some socialization what with the COVID and 40 million unemployed, and Murder Hornets and ANTIFA attacks, and childhood heroes dying and waiting for the next shoe to drop, we won’t even notice until we go to grab a book of matches or an ashtray, and are told by Bubba, “No smoking inside.”

Pottpouri

The Alabama League of Municipalities is staffing up after the retirement of longtime Executive Director Ken Smith. Greg Cochran has been promoted to replace Smith as ED and Kayla Bass has moved up to become the Director of External Affairs. the League is also bringing on two new staffers: Bryan Parker as Director of Governmental Affairs and Baker Allen as Director of Policy and Research. Parker is well known in Alabama political circles, having worked for former Congressman Jo Bonner and Power South over the years. Allen has been working in the governor’s policy shop the last four years and is one of the few Bentley staffers who was asked to stay on after Ivey became governor.

Jean Elizabeth Miles recently became Communications Director for the Business Council of Alabama. The move came after the departure of Nancy Hewston, who moved to become Vice President of Community & Governmental Affairs for the Mobile Chamber of Commerce. The BCA comms job is one of the most highly-sought after of its kind in Alabama politics and competition was fierce for the rare opening.

The aforementioned former State Rep. April Weaver has accepted a position with the Trump administration as Heath & Human Services Regional Director for Region 4. That region which includes Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina and North Carolina. Weaver is a registered nurse, a former hospital administrator and has specialized in health policy throughout her legislative career. She previously chaired the House Health Committee for five years. Even if Trump does not win reelection, having experience in the federal health system will make Weaver all the more valuable given her previous legislative and health industry experience.