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December 2016 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The holidays are almost here, and 2016 is winding down, but there’s still plenty of political activity: Jeff Sessions’ U.S. Senate seat is up for grabs, as is a spot in the Alabama House. Plus, you may have to wait longer to get part of your tax refund in 2017.

Luther Strange to Run for U.S. Senate
Alabama Attorney Luther Strange has announced his intention to seek the U.S. Senate seat left open by Jeff Sessions’ nomination to be the nation’s attorney general. Strange says he filed the appropriate paperwork with the federal election authorities. Once Sessions formally vacates his Senate seat, Governor Robert Bentley will appoint his replacement and call for a special election. State law does not set a specific time for the special election but says the governor must “forthwith order an election” if the vacancy occurs more than four months before the next general election, which is in 2018. Sessions’ current term runs until 2020.

Representative Oliver Robinson Resigns House Seat
Representative Oliver Robinson from Birmingham recently announced he will retire immediately from Alabama House of Representatives. Robinson has served since 1998 and said he is retiring to avoid any potential conflicts of interest. Robison’s daughter works for Governor Robert Bentley and will be serving as the governor’s liaison in the House. With Robinson’s retirement, Birmingham Mayor William Bell has lost an advocate and friend. Robinson supported bills backed by the Mayor intended to take power from Birmingham’s City Council President, who has been a fierce rival of Mayor Bell. Governor Bentley will determine a date and call a special election to fill Robinson’s vacated seat.
Federal Tax Refunds to be Delayed 
It is estimated that almost 500,000 Alabamians will not receive their federal tax refunds until after February 15, 2017 due to a new law aimed at reducing identity theft and fraud. The Internal Revenue Service will hold refunds until mid-February 2017 for people claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit. The additional time allows for closer scrutiny for the tens of millions of people who claim credits. The IRS will begin accepting electronic tax returns on January23, 2017. The filing deadline for 2016 returns is April 18, 2017, three days later than usual, because April 15 falls on Saturday, and Emancipation Day, which is celebrated in Washington D.C., is commemorated on Monday, April 17.

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