Legislators look ahead to session

Published 10:29 pm Monday, January 8, 2018

By ADAM DODSON | The Selma Times-Journal

State legislators are gearing up for the 2018 session after a year that saw Alabama in the national spotlight for corruption, scandals and special elections.

This session will bring its own array of challenges and curveballs, but the local delegation of Sen. Hank Sanders and Rep. Prince Chestnut expect a much calmer session this time around.

“I think this session will certainly be quieter compared to what is normal, especially last year,” Sanders said. “I hope and pray that Democrats and Republicans can come together to solve Alabama’s problems.”

For the upcoming session, Sanders has created a list of things he would like to accomplish, in order by priority.

First, Sanders said he would work to expand Medicaid coverage in Alabama. According to Sanders, Medicaid expansion could add up to 30,000 jobs and would save many rural hospitals.

“I believe few things could be done by the Alabama government that would be more positively impactful to our state,” Sanders said.

Second, Sanders wants to remove the sales tax off of food, which he has attempted to do every session for years. According to Sanders, necessities such as food and water should never have a tax on them.

Also, he stated he would like to bring back a former law where every individual must be required to have a driver’s license.

Lastly, Sanders said he wants to help protect voting rights. He announced his opposition against anything that restricts the right to cast a ballot.

“Every year it seems that they try to make it harder for people to vote,” Sanders said.

“I am here to kill that. Legislative sessions are so unpredictable. There are 140 different agendas people are trying to push.”

Sanders may be a three-decade veteran of Alabama politics, but Chestnut is new to the scene.

He is an attorney who was elected to represent District 67 during a special election on April 18, 2017, after previous representative Darrio Melton was elected mayor of Selma.

Chestnut, who now sits on the committee for military and veterans affairs, expressed his interest in using Craig Field to strengthen the surrounding economy. His goal would see the former air force base as a recipient of defense contracts or act as a flight school.

“I look and see what is going on in Huntsville and what is going on in Montgomery with defense contracts, and I think ‘Why not Selma,’” Chestnut said. “If I show support to the military and toward this base, it could start something that would benefit Selma greatly.”

In addition to strengthening the former base, Chestnut would like to establish more benefits for those who have served. This is Chestnut’s first full session and has said he is going into it without any “preconceived ideas.”

The session is scheduled to go from early January to around midway through April.

According to Sanders, the session will probably end sooner than usual due to candidates running for reelection this spring.