I continuously try to stress to people that the position of Governor in this state is almost irrelevant when it comes to the legislative process, he is an ambassador for the state and a general figure head. He appoints people to state agencies and controls the state as the top executive but he has no real veto power and therefore can’t really stop anything.
There are some odd quotes coming from legislators and even many Alabama Republicans out today criticizing Bentley’s style…
Gov. Robert Bentley in a May news conference called for changes to a freshly passed immigration bill, telling reporters, “If I’m going to sign this bill, and I’m going to own this bill, then I want that bill like I want it.” Less than 36 hours later, Bentley signed the bill into law, anyway; lawmakers showed no interest in making the changes that Bentley wanted and, according to some lawmakers, Bentley, a Republican, could not find a single GOP senator to sponsor his revisions.
“I don’t think I ever saw that happen to a governor before,” said Vestavia Hills Republican Sen. Jabo Waggoner, who has served in the Alabama Legislature for nearly four decades. “Almost always a governor can find at least somebody willing to sponsor a change, even when you know it’s DOA. . . . Somebody has always been willing to take a bullet to save the governor embarrassment. At least until now,” said Waggoner, who serves as Senate majority leader.
It gets worse from there…
Top lawmakers said Bentley has relied too much on his chief of staff, David Perry, to communicate with legislators and has not been as personally engaged as previous governors.
‘We refer to him as Ambassador Perry,’ House Minority Leader Rep Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, said.
‘I think too often he has not been willing to be personally engaged with us, too often the guy you see carrying his water is Dave Perry. Dave is great, but he’s been stretched way too thin. Dave represents the governor well, but he’s not the governor. There are times you need to hear from the man himself, and too often his voice is not being heard,’ Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, said.
One of the two principal sponsors of the re-worked immigration bill, Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, said Bentley did not discuss his proposed changes with him or with Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, before he announced them publicly. Bentley seems surprised by the criticism, especially the view that he is not communicating effectively with lawmakers.
Beason said the governor is not meeting as much with legislators, probably because he doesn’t think he needs to since they are of the same party and already agree on most things.
‘You are going to have very, very similar agenda items so you won’t see the back and forth as much as you did with the Democrat(ic) Legislature and Gov. Riley. They are all heading in the same direction , so you shouldn’t be meeting each other face to face very often,’ Beason said.
‘For some legislators who wish the governor would come and speak to them more, I think that’s a little bit of preaching to the choir. Maybe that could happen to build stronger relationships, but if you did that all the time, someone would just complain we were having unnecessary meetings because we were all on the same page,’ Beason said.
‘The jump from the House to the Senate is big, but from the House to the governor’s office, that’s really a big jump,’ Ward said. ‘I think in some ways the governor has not had the chance to get the experience, the seasoning you probably need before you take that jump to governor.’ Walk the halls of the State House asking members what they think of Bentley, a dermatologist who had served eight years in the House and who affectionately was called ‘Doc,’ by his friends, and the adjective often given is: nice. Not forceful or tough. Nice.
‘He’s a very likable guy,’ Ward said. ‘If you don’t like the man Robert Bentley, then you probably don’t like anybody.’ However, the reputation of Mr. Nice Governor did not always apply as Bentley appeared to get tougher with lawmakers. He verbally came down with both feet on the Senate for not passing economic incentive legislation or a tougher charter school bill.
Most new governors need time to ramp up to the job, and that likely is true of Bentley, Ward said.
‘I think it’s fair to say he’s tripped coming out of the gate, but I think you could probably say that of most new governors,’ said Ward.
Bentley, of course, disagrees…
“I met regularly with the leadership of both houses of the Legislature, and I meet with both the Republican and Democratic caucus,’ Bentley said.
‘I know Jabo Waggoner has been around here a long time, but I dare say probably no governor has had Jabo in his office more than I have. And I have an open-door policy for any legislator who wants to talk to me, so I just don’t see any validly to this talk that I don’t communicate.’ ‘It’s not my job to walk the fifth and seventh floors talking with legislators,’ Bentley flatly said. ‘My style is to meet regularly with the leadership from both chambers and from both parties. And, my door is open to any legislator who wants to talk to me anytime.’ Bentley said he respects the job of legislators. However, he said his job and responsibilities and their job and responsibilities are very different.
‘Legislators have an important job,’ Bentley said. ‘But as governor, I have a more important job. Legislators answer to voters and citizens in their districts. I answer to all the people.’ Bentley brushed aside a question about not being able to find a sponsor in the Senate to carry his proposed changes to the immigration bill.
‘I think, given some time, we would have found someone, but you need more than one, and it did become apparent that the Senate was simply not willing to reopen the process,’ Bentley said.
Maybe there is more to that…
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