In his first words as Alabama Speaker of the House, three years ago, State Rep. Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) declared “the days of the imperial speakership are over.”
McCutcheon was elected by a vote of 68 to 28, defeating the Democrats’ nominee, Rep. John Knight of Montgomery.“I am not my predecessor. The days of the imperial speakership are over,” he said as members of both parties applauded. “I will work every day, every hour, every minute and every second to be the people’s speaker.”
McCutcheon was first elected Speaker of the House in July 2016 after Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, was forced to vacate the position following his conviction on twelve felony counts of violating the state’s ethics law.
In January of 2019, McCutcheon kicked off the new legislative session with these words of wisdom for freshman legislators:
“In other words, you can choose to be a flash in the pan, or you can build a lasting legacy of goodwill, trust, integrity, and sound policy,” McCutcheon added. “I’ve made my decision and hope you make the same choice. The members in this chamber will not always agree on everything, and there will be moments of tension and discord. At those difficult moments, do not turn your back and walk away in anger. Instead, come to the table, negotiate in good faith, and help work out the differences.”
“To the new members who will cast their first vote today, let me give you a piece of advice. It’s the key to success in this body, and it can be summed up in one word – relationships,” McCutcheon said. “Get to know your fellow members, develop a foxhole friendship during the legislative battles that are sure to come, always have their back and ask that they always have yours in return. If you develop these relationships, do your homework on the issues, and ask questions you think are in need of being asked during debates – you will be successful in this body. “
McCutcheon emphasized his intent to raise money for infrastructure improvements.
Challenge McCutcheon and pay the price? Just Ask State Representative April Weaver about that. She represents House District 49, composed of Shelby, Chilton and Bibb County geography, and has served since 2010.
Weaver has been seen as a rising star in the Alabama Republican Party and in the State Legislature. Until a few days ago she was Chair of the Health Committee, and held seats on State Government, Reapportionment, Finance & Budget, and a Joint Medicaid Committee and as a result, a member of House Leadership.
Then she voted No on Governor Ivey’s Gas Tax Bill, along with 19 other House Members. She voted No because the voters in her district, the people who elected her, the people to whom she is accountable, the voters she heard from in large numbers, did not support the gas tax. She was forewarned by the leaders in Montgomery. Vote No and suffer the consequences. She voted No. Damn the torpedoes.
Despite the plan’s strong support in the Legislature, there was opposition outside the State House. The state Republican Party executive committee voted to oppose a gas tax increase without an offsetting tax decrease. Opponents of the plan formed a political action committee to campaign against it.
The State GOP Executive Committee said the tax would be a betrayal of Alabama taxpayers who elected Republican leaders.
Last week Weaver’s favorable rising tide began to recede. She was notified by Speaker McCutcheon’s Office that she has been removed as Chair of the Health Committee. She also has been removed from Reapportionment and a nomination to the Legislative Council has been rescinded. The status of her other committee assignments has not been announced. Bills that she sponsors or co-sponsors are likely to go nowhere in this session.
The Bibb Voice made a phone call to the Speaker’s Office and requested confirmation of committee assignments by asking for a current published list. Maggie in the Speaker’s office said the Speaker was still making changes and she could not release a list until they were finalized. That was on April 10. As of this writing, 2 weeks later, we still don’t have a published list so we can’t confirm what committee changes have been made.
According to Inside Alabama Politics April 24 Edition, Rep. Mike Holmes (R-Wetumpka) was removed as Vice Chairman of the Committee on Boards and Agencies; Rep. Ritchie Whorton (R-Scottsboro) was removed from the Ways & Means Education Committee, a plum assignment that is tough to lose; Rep. Jim Carns (R-Birmingham) was removed from the Ways & Means General Fund Committee; Rep. April Weaver (R-Alabaster) was removed as Chair of the Health Committee, though she retained a spot on the committee, was removed from the Energy Council, and had her nomination to the Legislative Council rescinded. She was also removed from the Reapportionment Committee. Rep. Corey Harbison (R-Cullman) was removed from the Reapportionment Committee. We have also been informed that David Wheeler was removed from Transportation.
The boys in Montgomery are playing political hardball with Representative Weaver. “Imperialism” may not have returned to the House but It’s iconic nose may have just slipped under the tent. The Governor and the Speaker did not appreciate anyone with the temerity to oppose their “signature legislation”.
Remember when Governor Kay Ivey said this to a reporter, Lydia Nusbaum of WSFA News?
“All the freshmen who ran for House and Senate were indeed briefed on the need for an infrastructure bill well before they were elected,” Ivey said. “And they were vetted by the House and Senate leadership, and if they were not for increasing the gas tax for infrastructure, they were not encouraged to run.”
And then she added …
“The freshmen know more than they may be telling you.” said Kay Ivey after the election. This is a subject she was not willing to talk about before the election.
They got their gas tax bill steamrolled through the legislature without a vote of the people and only 26 of the elected house and senate officials we voters sent to Montgomery had enough will power to oppose it. The vote in the House was 83 Yea’s to 20 No’s, the Senate vote was 28-6.
Bibb County GOP Chairman Jerry Pow said that local party officials were upset at the news that Representative Weaver was removed from her committee assignments and being retaliated against because she did her job and represented her district and upheld Republican party stated principles. There is room within the party for disagreement on tax issues and there is no reason to retaliate and punish a loyal GOP legislator in a situation where a bill passed with a comfortable margin and the only reason to do this to Weaver is pure political retaliatory hardball. By removing Weaver from leadership and committee assignments Bibb County is being punished even though Bibb County voted overwhelmingly for Kay Ivey in the 2018 election said members of the Bibb executive committee.
The Bibb GOP Executive Committee drafted a Resolution of Support for Representative Weaver and hand delivered it to Speaker McCutcheon’s office asking him to keep her in a leadership role in Montgomery but has not received an acknowledgement or reply from the Speaker’s office said Pow.
April Weaver has done a good job representing Bibb, Shelby and Chilton counties. A new hospital in Chilton County, a thriving medical and automotive industry in Bibb County, and the sprawling growing metropolitan complex of South Shelby County are all indicators of her good work.
Instead of 40 lashes from Speaker McCutcheon, the retired policeman, Representative Weaver deserves a big Thank You from the voters that elected her.
THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED IN THIS ARTICLE ARE THOSE OF THE WRITER AND NOT THOSE OF THE BIBB VOICE OR ITS EDITORIAL STAFF