By Mike Ward, CCE, Senior Vice President, Government & Public Affairs
Tennessee Valley legislators have never before held such a powerful combination of State Legislative leadership positions. For the first time in Alabama’s 200-year history, the Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives, the Minority Leader of the Alabama House of Representatives, and the Chair of the Senate Education Fund Appropriations Committee all hail from North Alabama. These three positions have tremendous impact on the legislative process and funding State government.
McCutcheonThe Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives wields considerable power in the legislative process, appointing members of the Legislature to the various committees and selecting the committee chairs as well as assigning legislation to the various committees. Working with the leadership in the House, the Speaker helps to set the daily agenda of legislation to be considered by the House. Representative Mac McCutcheon was first elected Speaker in 2016. At that time, it was the first time in 175 years – since 1841 – that a Representative from Madison County has been elected Speaker, and it was the first time since 1967 that anyone from the Tennessee Valley has had that honor (Albert Brewer from Decatur/Morgan County served as Speaker from 1963-67).
In February 2017, Alabama House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels made history twice when he became the first African-American and the youngest official to hold the state legislative position. Out of 105 representatives in the state legislature, the 34-year-old Democrat is one of 27 black representatives – and his election to the post reflects the state’s changing political landscape. Representative Daniels grew up in Midway, Alabama, and earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Alabama A&M University. After working as an elementary school teacher for several years, he went on to become the first black man elected chair of the National Education Association Student Program. The minority leader is an important legislative position – devising strategies to advance party objectives, working to promote and publicize the party’s agenda, and striving to promote party harmony so to maximize the chances for legislative and political success.
Senator Arthur Orr of Decatur chairs the Alabama Senate Committee with jurisdiction over the State’s $7.125 billion Education Fund budget, the larger of the State’s two budgets. The General Fund Budget for fiscal year 2020 is $2.1 billion. Sen. Orr was first elected to the Alabama Senate in 2006 and has been re-elected three times since. He lives in Decatur, representing the people of District 3, which includes parts of Madison, Limestone, and Morgan counties. He is the vice president and general counsel for Cook’s Pest Control, Inc. Sen. Orr received his BA from Wake Forest University, and his J.D. from the University of Alabama School of Law. While attending law school, he was elected as chief justice of the Honor Court and senior editor of the law review.
Another north Alabamian with a key leadership position in State government is Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth. He formerly served as a representative of the 27th District of the Alabama House of Representatives, a position he was elected to on November 4, 2014. He did not seek re-election in 2018, instead running for lieutenant governor. Ainsworth became the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor after winning the July 17 primary runoff against Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh. The Lt. Governor presides over the Alabama State Senate and is next in line to serve as Governor.
This article appears in the February 2020 issue of Initiatives magazine, a publication of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber.