Inside the Statehouse: Big moments from 2015

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As we look back over the past year’s political events one week stands out. During one week in the middle of 2015, three momentous events occurred. All three came down bang, bang, bang in the week leading up to the fourth of July.
First was the landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which deemed same sex marriage legal and the law of the land. Then the historic BP settlement, which granted Alabama $1.3 billion for environmental recovery and an additional $1 billion for economic losses. Finally, was Governor Bentley’s executive order removing all of the confederate flags from the Capitol.
All three decisions will have an impact on state politics. How will these three events affect Alabama politics in the next few years?
The removal of the confederate flags affects only Gov. Robert Bentley. Since Gov. Bentley is prohibited by the constitution from seeking a third term as governor and at that time he will be 76, so it is doubtful that Bentley runs for office again. Therefore, it has no political effect. However, years from now it will be considered as a positive reflection on Bentley’s tenure as governor. Some have suggested that it will be one of his legacies.
What about the BP settlement? This windfall to the State General Fund will have a positive impact for Alabama’s finances for the next two decades. $55 million a year is nothing to sneeze at. It will help legislators who are not yet on the scene balance the state’s budgets. However, what are the political ramifications, if any? Negligible at best. Governor Bentley again claims the spotlight and will be able to claim credit for the BP settlement as it came down during his administration.
That brings us to the same sex marriage issue. Like the BP ruling, it is all over but the shouting. It does not matter if less than a decade ago Alabamians voted overwhelmingly for a constitutional amendment outlawing same sex marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court is the ultimate omnipotent authority and they have spoken. It is over. It is the law.
My prognostication is that this issue has legs and the fallout will be felt in Alabama politics into the 2018 Governor’s Race. Roy Moore likes to ride horses. In fact, he rides his horse to vote at his home in Gallion in rural Etowah County. Our Chief Justice Roy Moore has got a horse to ride into the 2018 Governor’s Race.
Like Bentley, Moore is prohibited from running for his same office again. You cannot run for a judgeship in Alabama after age 70. Roy Moore will be 72 in 2018. You can bet your bottom dollar he will be a candidate for governor.
Moore made his mark by running with a granite monument of the Ten Commandments. He gallantly stood by his convictions to not remove it from the judicial building. He lost his Chief Justice position over his stance. Alabamians did not forget his stand. Ten years later they put him back in his job as Chief Justice.
My belief is that this issue will not be forgotten nor taken lying down. We are one of, if not the most religious states in America. It is a pivotal issue for Christians. It resonates and it will be a game changer. They will be reminded every time they read their Bible.
Alabama politics clearly dictates that race and religion drive the vote in the Heart of Dixie. Roy Moore knows his constituency. They know him and believe me he is their man. Studies have shown that if Alabama is the Heart of the Bible Belt, the buckle is a stretch of the State just north of Birmingham. Moore chose an evangelical church in Kimberly in rural northern Jefferson County to throw down the gauntlet. He told his folks in the Heart of the Bible Belt, “Welcome to the new world. It’s just changed for you Christians. You are going to be persecuted according to the U.S. Supreme Court dissents.”
In a crowded field, the evangelical vote becomes paramount. We will have eight to ten folks running for Governor in 2018. The vote becomes splintered maybe along geographical friends and neighbors lines. However, religion trumps geography in Alabama politics. Roy Moore has found his horse and it secures him a place in the runoff in 2018.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist.  His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers.  He served 16 years in the state legislature.  Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

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