Del Marsh stepping down as Senate pro tempore, Greg Reed nominated

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In this Thursday April 25, 2019 file photo, Sen. Del Marsh talk with the media about the lottery bill during a recess in the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala. Longtime Alabama Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh said Friday, Oct. 30, 2020 that he will not seek reelection to the Alabama Legislature. Marsh told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that he was ready to move on after more than two decades in Montgomery. (Mickey Welsh/The Montgomery Advertiser via AP, File)

Longtime Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh is stepping down from his leadership position, saying he wants to devote his final two years in Montgomery to education issues.

Senate Republicans on Monday nominated Sen. Greg Reed of Jasper to replace Marsh as president pro tempore. Senators are expected to approve the choice when lawmakers convene for the session in February. Republicans hold a firm majority in the Senate.

Marsh had announced earlier that he would not seek reelection in 2022. In a telephone interview with The Associated Press, the senator said Tuesday that he wants to concentrate his energy on education legislation, including broadband and possibly sweeping legislation that could address issues ranging from teacher pay to increased school choice.

“This is my last quadrennium. I want to focus this session specifically on that, and I can do it better as a senator than as a pro tem,” Marsh said.

Marsh said the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw students finishing the school year from home, spotlighted the need for increased broadband access in the state.

The Anniston Republican said he is also working on an education package, which would go before voters for approval. While he is still working on specifics, he said it might address issues ranging from increasing teacher pay, tenure changes, and increased school choice opportunities.

Marsh said he is conducting polls to see what the public would support.

“The goal is to put together an education package that can achieve bipartisan support,” Marsh said.

Marsh was the architect of the 2014 Alabama Accountability Act that provides tax credits for donations to scholarship programs to help low-income students attend private schools. The law also provides criteria to designate public schools with the lowest test scores as failing.

Marsh has said the scholarships provide a lifeline to students stuck in underperforming schools. Critics say the tax credits divert money from public education. The legislation was passed during a chaotic floor fight with Democrats after the scholarship bill was substituted for a different bill.

Republished with the permission of the Associated Press.