Alabama legislative session officially underway with powerful representation from north Alabama

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - The legislative session officially began in Alabama today. Alabama lawmakers are now meeting in Montgomery and Madison County is in a somewhat unique position with both the House Speaker and Minority Leader from the area.

There's a lot to do in this session, including budget talks and prison funding.

"The department of corrections needs an additional 80 million dollars," said Senator Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, "so that's a significant lift."

Poised at the center of business is Representative Mac McCutcheon (R) of Madison County, Speaker of the House. Next is Representative Anthony Daniels of Huntsville, who leads the Democrats in the House.

"I don't think there has ever been a Minority Leader and Speaker that live in the same county," said Rep. Daniels. "In fact, our districts border."

Business leaders in Huntsville are excited by what this could mean: "I think most importantly it gives us an opportunity to be heard at a very high level. So the leadership of the state understands our issues and they are responsible to them," explained Mike Ward, Senior VP of Governmental Relations at Huntsville Madison County Chamber of Commerce.

But both House leaders know the Madison County area can't be their only focus.

Speaker of the House, Rep. Mac McCutcheon said the bigger picture is what is most important.

"You represent your district, but in a position of leadership you have to keep in mind that you are representing the state of Alabama and every district is important," he said.

The legislature is already hard at work on a budget everyone can agree on, but none of the leaders we spoke with Tuesday seemed to believe that would be too hard.  There is carryover money to play with in the General Fund and a surprising twist in the Education Trust Fund: "The economy has turned around and sales taxes and income taxes have turned around for the education budget," explained Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur.) "This is the second largest budget that we will be considering in the history of the state."

Democrat and Republican state lawmakers have each expressed a willingness to cooperate on major issues and say this session should be relatively smooth. There is a willingness to move speedily. After all, it is an election year and after this, it's time for many to campaign.