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January 2017 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The new year is starting off strong, with tons of political news swirling around Inauguration Day on January 20 as well as hearings on Trump’s cabinet appointees, including Alabama’s Jeff Sessions. More localized stories are revolving around the Alabama Legislature’s soon-to-start 2017 session, including some ideas on education reform.

Bentley Setting Senate Special Election for 2018
Governor Robert Bentley will soon be appointing a replacement for Senator Jeff Sessions, but that person will only be temporary. The governor recently announced that he would schedule the Special Election to coincide with the 2018 statewide elections. He cited two reasons for his decision: this timeline will save money and is likely to have a larger turnout since voters will have a number of local and statewide matters to spark interest and bring them to the polls. The governor has interviewed 20 state and federal officials and a businessman as possible contenders for the interim appointment. Read the full list:

  • Jim Byard, ADECA Director
  • U.S. Representative Mo Brooks
  • Alabama State Senator Bill Hightower
  • Former Representative Perry Hooper Jr.
  • Alabama State Senator Del Marsh
  • Chief Justice Roy Moore
  • Alabama Supreme Court Associate Justice Glenn Murdock
  • State Senator Arthur Orr
  • State Senator Tripp Pittman
  • Representative Bill Poole
  • Representative Connie Rowe
  • State Senator Cam Ward
  • Alabama Revenue Commissioner Julie Magee
  • U.S. Representative Robert Aderholt
  • Alabama State Senator Phil Williams
  • Tim James
  • Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange
  • U.S. Representative Martha Roby
  • State Senator Greg Reed
  • U.S. Representative Gary Palmer

And read Bentley’s latest comments on the special election here.

Sessions’ Chief of Staff to serve in White House
President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team recently announced the appointment of Rick Dearborn as Deputy Chief of Staff in the White House. Dearborn is the longtime chief of staff to Senator Jeff Sessions. In his new role, Dearborn, who is currently executive director of the Presidential Transition Team, will lead the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Cabinet affairs. Dearborn has worked for six U.S. Senators and spent more than 25 years working on Capitol Hill.

State Senator calls for Education Plan 
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh of Anniston is calling for a comprehensive plan for public education in Alabama. Marsh has sponsored high-profile education reform bills in recent years says the development of a cohesive school strategy should start with educators and not lawmakers. Directors of two groups representing education leaders said Marsh’s idea has merit. Dr. Eric Mackey, executive of the School Superintendents of Alabama, said test scores show Alabama students lagging behind those from other states to a degree that can’t be fully blamed on Alabama’s high poverty rate. He said a comprehensive plan needs to account for the wide disparity among Alabama school systems. The executive director of the Alabama Association of School Boards agrees and said the time is right because of new leadership and other changes in education.

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