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Off The Record: The latest rumors and rumblings in North Alabama


Keith stays on

Huntsville City Councilman Devyn Keith has apparently decided to see if he can ride out the controversy surrounding his shoplifting arrests. However, that hasn’t stopped local pols from speculating about who might replace him on the council if he is forced to resign. Should that come to pass, anyone appointed will likely face Huntsville City School Board member Michelle Watkins should they seek election to a full term.

It’s the Kreme Delight

While all of north Alabama continues to grow, Athens has seen more than its share of new development. Most of that growth has been east of I-65 as Madison and Huntsville continue to spread west. But recent sewer investments have spurred new growth in west Athens with several builders either developing new subdivisions or looking for the next great site in the luring locale.

GOP likes our “mama on a mission”

While Congressman Dale Strong seems to have hit the trifecta with appointments to the Armed Services, Homeland Security and Science committees, Sen. Katie Britt scored her own clean sweep with assignments to Appropriations, Banking and Rules committees. Insiders say she was selected ahead of some senators with more seniority but it wasn’t because of her ties to former Sen. Richard Shelby. Britt is seen as a rising star in the Republican Party and it looks like leadership wants to put her where she can shine.

Closing off the primary

Big changes are brewing that will dramatically change elections in Alabama. Several Republican leaders are pushing to change to a closed primary system which would require some method for voters to register by party. Currently, Alabama has no party registration and both the Democratic and Republican primaries are open to anyone. While the idea is gaining steam, the devil will be in the details. Will the Secretary of State be the one to handle these registrations or will the political parties?

Mayor down!

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle has been placed on the injured reserve list and won’t be available should either of Sunday’s Super Bowl teams need him. It seems he tore his Achilles tendon cleaning up a vacant lot in the neighborhood. Battle joins other notable politicians who have taken a tumble and his story sounds better than when Gov. Kay Ivey injured her shoulder tripping on Missy, Alabama’s First Dog. But perhaps not quite as cool as former Gov. Bob Riley when he laid down his motorcycle on The Dalton, an Alaskan road to the Arctic Circle featured on the History Channel’s “Ice Road Truckers.” Riley was seriously injured but had a great story to tell after he made a full recovery.

A forthcoming fracas? 

Will there be another attempt to expand Medicaid in the Alabama Legislature this year? Many conservative lawmakers have stood against the plan that would see the federal government pay 90% of the cost of Medicaid expansion. The politics of the issue are certainly not favorable in the Republican-dominated Legislature. However, as one policy player tells me, the year after an election is the time to do it and a push is already underway.

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