Gudger, Harbison field questions at Community Forum in Good Hope

Sen. Garlan Gudger and his wife Heather talk with Tom and Sonya Salerni, who came to commend the senator for his support of the state’s abortion ban. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

GOOD HOPE, Ala. – Rep. Corey Harbison, R-Good Hope and Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman came to Good Hope to meet with constituents and local officials Thursday night for a community forum sponsored by the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce.

Questions and comments from the crowd included:

  • Possible expansion of the Cullman County Commission – Harbison explained that he had proposed a legislative act that would have increased the commission to a five-member body with four part-time associate commissioners and a full-time chairman who would serve as a kind of CEO for the body, but the act did not make it through the Alabama Senate after passing the House. Gudger also supported the idea of expansion, saying that groups of three often end up at odds with two siding against one, and that a larger body would bring more diverse opinions and viewpoints to problem solving.
  • Status of the recently passed near total abortion ban (the Alabama Human Life Protection Act, signed into law in May 2019)- Responding to an audience member who commended him for his support of the bill, Gudger said that the Alabama Supreme Court has declined to review the act, and that it has been sent to the U.S. Supreme Court.  He also explained that the controversial removal of exceptions for rape or incest closed a loophole that could have led to the bill being overturned at the federal level, and that states will be able to revisit specific exceptions after the U.S. Supreme Court hands down its opinion.  Harbison said that work on the bill was hard, but “If we can save one life, it’s a good thing.”
  • Protection against vote fraud – Harbison commended Alabama Sec. of State John Merrill for the work his office has done to prevent and respond to voter fraud, and touted the Legislature’s passing of a photo ID requirement for voters.  He also noted that photo voter IDs can be obtained free of charge at the Cullman County Board of Registrars office for anyone without a driver’s license.
  • Possibility of revisiting a possible Cullman County Commission expansion in the next legislative session – Harbison said he could not speak for other legislators, but he would be willing to talk with other members of the local delegation about another attempt at the State House. Gudger said that he was open to the idea, but would want to get more input from the current commission and more local citizens before he made a final decision. 

As they drew the meeting to a close, both legislators took time to voice their support for the upcoming 2020 Census.  Gudger noted that Alabama only had a 72% participation rate from its approximately 4.8 million residents in 2010, and explained that an 80% participation rate (the state’s goal for the 2020 Census) would mean $1 billion more per year for the state in federal funding for numerous programs at the state and local levels.

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Sen. Garlan Gudger, right, listens as Rep. Corey Harbison, left, fields a question at Good Hope City Hall Thursday night. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

W.C. Mann