MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Monday marked the start of a Special Session in Montgomery. Governor Robert Bentley hopes Legislators can fix the state's "funding crisis."
State Representatives have also named a new Speaker of the House. The votes have been tallied and Representative Mac McCutcheon has been elected. He won with 68 votes, a majority over opponent John Knight of Montgomery. Rep. McCutcheon has represented part of Madison and Limestone Counties since 2006 and says he is ready for his new role as Speaker.
"To put it bluntly, the days of the imperial speakership are over," he told the House after his election.
Later, in his first interview post-election, he said to media, "It's an honor, I really am humbled in so many ways to have the support of my colleagues and be able to take on this task. We've got a lot of work to do, and I'm just ready to go to work," he commented.
McCutcheon is no stranger to holding powerful positions in the legislature, he chaired the Rules Committee previously. The House Republicans chose him to be their nominee earlier this month after a jury found former Speaker, Mike Hubbard, guilty of twelve ethics charges.
"My style will be more to listen to the members of this body," explained McCutcheon of his leadership style.
This election was the first order of business today during the Special Session. The acting speaker opened nominations and after the vote, McCutcheon was sworn in by Madison County judge Linda Coats.
Rep. McCutcheon said there were mixed emotions heading into the day. He wasn't counting on the win, but is very excited now to get to work leading both parties through the house's duties this session. Rep. McCutcheon has said that the state's challenges, including funding issues, will require togetherness. That's how he prepares to lead.
"We are offered a chance to move beyond the past and move forward into the future. And when Alabama's down, that's when we do our best work. It is time for us to stand up and do what we were elected to do," said McCutcheon to the members of the House of Representatives. "We can do it together. We can regain our respect, we can regain the honor that is due to this office."
He went on to explain that he plans to preside not with an iron fist, but a helping hand.
"The gavel that rests above me is a powerful one. I can promise you today that it will be used for fair, and will be used in an impartial manner."
Democrats say they did not vote for McCutcheon not because they wanted to vote against him, but because they wanted to be a part of the process. Rep. Anthony Daniels, who is in McCutcheon's own delegation representing Huntsville, did not vote for McCutcheon. But he said he supports the new speaker and is proud of him, calling him the right man for the job.
"It's also great to have someone from North Alabama as the speaker," said Daniels. "He's going to do a great job, it's going to be great for our community."
"Hopefully he'll be fair an impartial and allow our bills to be brought up and have a fair debate," said House Minority Leader Craig Ford.