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Rep. Chestnut looks back at legislative session

By Adam Dodson | The Selma Times-Journal

After completing his first full legislative session in the Alabama House of Representatives, Rep. Prince Chestnut leaves Montgomery with a better understanding of how the process works and feels optimistic moving forward.

The term, which ended last Thursday, made legislators look at a variety of issues taking place in the state, from freedom of speech laws to prison food policies.

Although it was Chestnut’s first go at it from start to finish, the representative feels confident in what he was able to get done, which includes the passage of his first bill, HB 334.

The bill advocated worker’s compensation revisions to where the local government health insurance board could cover on-the-job injuries for employees participating in local government health programs, removing the need for the injured to reach out to a third party for compensation.

While proud of his achievements, Chestnut feels he is going to get better at his job as he attains more experience and learns the key political players.

“I know who can help. I have a better understanding of who can get things done,” Chestnut said. “Instead of getting one bill through, I could probably get a lot through next time around. It’s one of those things that the more you do it the better get at it.”

He also supported multiple bills and initiatives covering an array of topics. This includes the collective role the legislature played in working to get an acceptable budget passed, which saw pay raises for teachers and retirees.

It also includes his individual support for legislation, such as the Rural Broadband Act, aiming to increase internet connection in rural areas, and his support for the “In God We Trust Act,” advocating for the permission of the usage of the phrase for government buildings, public schools, libraries, vehicles, etc.

Chestnut was not afraid to express his true beliefs behind his appreciation of the phrase, nor was he afraid to openly support the bill, which ended up passing.

“I thought it was important for me to support this bill as a symbol of love of country, acknowledgment of the creator and the spiritual and inspirational effects the motto carries,” Chestnut said. “It will hopefully allow present and future generations to be similarly inspired as I was as a child by the motto and other patriotic symbols.”

While Chestnut adjusts, and learns what he can do better next cycle, he will have to adjust to another change with long-time Sen. Hank Sanders choosing to not run for re-election.

Chestnut learned much from Sanders, and hopes to model his tireless work ethic in future sessions to come.

Sanders may be leaving, but Chestnut still receives political inspiration from others, such as those in Huntsville and Madison County that he has a budding relationship with.

Representatives and officials in these areas, according to Chestnut, are not crippled by differences in political affiliation, but rather keep their eyes on the common goal.

This motivates Chestnut to work with his own friends across the aisle.

“I have established good relationships with the Huntsville area, and they are having so much success,” Chestnut said. “They never attack each other. They understand whether democrat or republican, they need to work together for the better of that area. Business and industry do not like instability. That is why they are a prime location for industry and for quality of life.”

With the session over, Chestnut will have to work with his friends of different political parties outside of the state house walls. However, this will allow Chestnut to step up his own game, as he says he will commit to having a better understanding of house rules and guidelines. According to Chestnut, some veteran politicians know every rule in the book, and he feels he could benefit from the same meticulousness.

Before the next session, all seats of the Alabama House of Representatives will be up for election on Nov. 6, 2018. This year’s legislative term ended a month earlier, allowing them extra time to prepare their campaigns.