One of the most powerful members of the Alabama House of Representatives will be stepping down from his seat, effective Aug. 1.
Rep. Jay Love, R-Montgomery, chairman of the House Ways and Means Education committee, said in a statement Wednesday he was leaving to “promote education reforms” and “pursue various business opportunities.”
In a phone interview Wednesday evening, Love said he had been thinking about departing his House seat for several months, but only made the decision in the last few weeks. He added that he was “looking forward to entering a new phase of my life.”
“There’s an opportunity for me I am not ready to release to the public yet,” Love said. “But that will be made known in a month or so of what I will be doing.”
Love declined to say if he was looking at a lobbying opportunity, saying the opportunity was “more of an advocacy role.” Alabama law forbids former lawmakers from lobbying their former “legislative body” for two years after they leave. The state’s Ethics Act defines the House and Senate as separate legislative bodies, meaning a lawmaker who left the House could possibly lobby the Senate during the two-year window, and vice versa.
Love also declined to elaborate on the education reform he sought to promote, but reiterated his support for the Alabama Accountability Act, which extends tax credits to students in schools designated as failing to be used for non-failing public schools or private ones.
Love said he hoped the law, strongly opposed by Democrats and met with uneasiness by education officials, “will begin the process of reforming education for those that are in the worst situations.”
House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, called Love a “trusted source for advice, counsel and guidance.”
“His new private sector role will allow him to remain a vocal presence in the education reform debates and public policy decisions that take place in the future,” Hubbard said in a statement.
In a statement, Gov. Robert Bentley called Love “an outstanding chairman” and said he had enjoyed working with him.
The House Ways and Means Education committee oversees the Education Trust Fund budget, which funds most public education in the state. Hubbard’s office said Wednesday evening a successor to Love had not yet been chosen; in a statement, the office said Hubbard would work with leadership to identify “the individual most qualified” to fill the role.
Love’s seat will be filled through a special election. Jennifer Ardis, a spokeswoman for Gov. Bentley, said there was currently no date set, “but the governor’s desire is to set one as quickly as he legally can.”
New lines for Love’s district will not take effect until next year’s elections; the special will be conducted within the current boundaries.
Love was first elected to the House in 2002, and became chair of the Ways and Means Education committee following the Republican landslide in 2010. He has worked as a developer and businessman owning a number of restaurants in Montgomery, including Subway and Marco’s Pizza establishments.
Love ran for U.S. Congress in 2008, losing a close race to Democrat Bobby Bright, then mayor of Montgomery.
Secretary of State Beth Chapman announced last week that she would be stepping down from her office effective Aug. 1, about 17 months prior to the expiration of her term. Chapman has been hired to work as a consultant with the Alabama Farmers Federation; she said earlier this week she would be working with other groups as well.
Love said the chairmanship was “a very difficult job,” but that he felt lawmakers had managed to stabilize the ETF after several lean years in the budget.
“I think we’ve made a lot of difficult choices early in this quadrennium to set the budget process on a firm foundation,” he said. “I think the state will benefit.”
– posted by Sebastian Kitchen and Brian Lyman