Alabama GOP legislators set a high standard in the historic 2011 session. What will their follow-up act look like? Here are Yellow Hammer’s 2012 “Legislators to Watch.”
1. Rep. JIM McCLENDON
Rep. McClendon tops our inaugural list of legislators to watch. Why? Because he’s House Chairman of the Permanent Committee on Redistricting — and although it hasn’t been getting a ton of press, redistricting is going to be a HUGE deal in the 2012 session. Rep. McClendon says the number one concern from voters and leaders around the state is to avoid dividing up a county more than needed.
The redistricting process in any state is always a huge ordeal (usually complete with lawsuits, etc.) so keep an eye on Rep. McClendon as he will be offering a lot of direction as the process plays out. Behind the scenes, you can bet every legislator in the state will be waiting to see how their district lines are drawn.
(Note: Sen. Gerald Dial is the redistricting co-chair, he’ll play a major role as well)
2. Rep. MICKEY HAMMON
The immigration debate has been been raging full-tilt since the moment Rep. Hammon’s HB56 hit the floor last session. Getting that bill passed was quite an accomplishment, holding the line under fire would be another. GOP leadership has continuously said they will not weaken the immigration law. Keep an eye on Rep. Hammon as his signature piece of legislation is readdressed.
3. Sen. ARTHUR ORR and Rep. JIM BARTON
Sen. Orr & Rep. Barton share the number 3 spot this year as Chairmen of the their respective chamber’s General Fund Committee. They are dealing with a budgeting nightmare created largely by the decades of ineptitude & irresponsibility of their Democratic counterparts. Regardless, now it’s theirs to figure out. It will be worth watching as they make the tough decisions to get our state back on a sustainable fiscal path.
4. Sen. SLADE BLACKWELL
Senator Blackwell is the top freshman on this year’s list. While the previous three slots were validated by their specific responsibilities in the upcoming session, Blackwell’s inclusion doesn’t come with specific evidence to watch for. However, we know that Sen. Blackwell is quietly becoming a player in a real way behind the scenes. He has leadership’s ear and for a freshman, that’s especially important.
5. Rep. BILL POOLE
Everything said above about Sen. Blackwell in the Senate can be plugged-in almost verbatim for Rep. Poole on the House side. 19 of 20 legislators sampled by The Press-Register’s George Talbot named Poole last year’s top freshman. I’ve spent a good bit of time talking policy with Rep. Poole and his approach is extremely impressive, especially for a first-time lawmaker. Put simply, he really “gets it.”
Sen. PAUL BUSSMAN and Sen. PHIL WILLIAMS — We’ve heard that one of these two impressive freshmen will be taking Sen. Waggoner’s spot as Confirmations Chairman.
Rep. BARRY MOORE — Some legislators quickly get tuned-out by going to the mic on the House floor too often. Rep. Moore rarely went to the mic in 2011 but when he did, the floor went quiet and people listened. Moore is a staunch conservative who is well-liked by his peers. With a background as a successful entrepreneur, he has quickly become a valued voice on small-business issues.
Sen. SCOTT BEASON — After getting stripped of his Rules Committee chairmanship, Sen. Beason had been laying low until we broke the news that he was eyeing Spencer Bachus’ U.S. House Seat. If he does jump in that race, how will it affect his actions in the state Senate? Does he filibuster on certain issues (e.g. immigration) just to keep the spotlight? It will be interesting to see what happens next for the legislature’s most polarizing figure.