Jeff Martin 2020

Jeff Martin

State Sen. Greg Reed of Jasper was chosen last week by the Senate Republican caucus to become the next Senate president pro tempore after Sen. Del Marsh of Anniston announced he would be stepping down from the post and would not stand for reelection in 2022. While the timing of the vote came as a surprise, the choice of Sen. Reed was not; he has been the heir apparent for several years. The unanimous vote all but ensures that Reed, currently the Senate Majority Leader, will be elected by the full Senate to one of the most powerful positions in state government when the Senate begins the 2021 legislative session in February.

Replacing Reed as the #2 person in the Senate is Sen. Clay Scofield of Guntersville who was elected to the position of Senate Majority Leader. Both Reed and Scofield were first elected to the Senate in 2010.

Playing out behind the scenes was an attempt to elect Sen. Steve Livingston of Scottsboro pro tem, which was orchestrated by about a half dozen North Alabama senators. It obviously failed and will cost several of those senators consideration for premium chairmanships when the dust settles.

The Republican Senate caucus has worked well together the last ten years under the leadership of Del Marsh, but with several of the 2010 class exiting the Senate and newer senators jockeying to fill the void, the waters have gotten a little turbulent. The recent change in leadership will also lead to several committee chairs becoming available.

Scofield’s promotion to majority leader will make available the chairmanship of the popular Confirmations committee. Originally Sen. Livingston was expected to get the appointment, but after his failed coup, I think it will be offered to Sen. Clyde Chambliss of Prattville.

Sen. Cam Ward of Alabaster was just appointed by Governor Kay Ivey to be the next Director of Pardons and Parole. His absence in the Senate will leave a void. Not only has he served as chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary committee, but he has also been the leader for sentencing and prison reform, a strong advocate for public notice and open government and just an all-around good public servant since first being elected to the legislature eighteen years ago. He will continue serving the state well in his new capacity.

Although Sen. Will Barfoot of Montgomery currently serves as vice chair of the Senate Judiciary committee, it will likely be Sen. Tom Whatley of Auburn who replaces Ward as chair of Judiciary because of seniority. Whatley currently chairs the Senate Agriculture, Forestry and Conservation committee, so there’s that too.

One rumor has Whatley being appointed by the governor as district attorney of Lee County, were there to become a vacancy. The current D.A. is under indictment. Whatley, a practicing attorney in Auburn and a Lt. Colonel in the Alabama Army National Guard, fits the job description. That said, I imagine he stays in the Senate.

So it appears that electing Reed and Scofield was the easy part. Let the game of musical chairs begin. When the Senate is predominately Republican there isn’t really anyone to squabble with other than each other.

The Washington publication The Hill recently reported that U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, 86, will not run for a seventh term in 2022 and that he desires Katie Britt to succeed him. But you’ve known that for a while, if you read my July 24, 2019 editorial titled “Shelby not to run for 7th term.”

I wrote, “Sen. Shelby has told people very definitively that he will not seek another term and that Shelby went so far as to tell a friend of mine that he hopes Katie Britt, his former Chief of Staff and the current President of the Business Council of Alabama, will run to succeed him, emphasizing that she would make a fine senator but acknowledging he didn’t know if it was something she would consider.” So, remember you heard it here first. I should add, that I concur with Sen. Shelby and I too think Mrs. Britt would represent Alabama well in the U.S. Senate and were she to run, she’d be a strong candidate.