Legislators: Governor transition busy, but fruitful

By ED HOWELL and JAMES PHILLIPS
Posted 4/30/17

Daily Mountain Eagle

MONTGOMERY — Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed, R-Jasper, said the recent resignation of former Gov. Robert Bentley has led to an even busier schedule for Reed, but he feels the action also has led the Legislature to be more …

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Legislators: Governor transition busy, but fruitful

Posted

Daily Mountain Eagle

MONTGOMERY — Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed, R-Jasper, said the recent resignation of former Gov. Robert Bentley has led to an even busier schedule for Reed, but he feels the action also has led the Legislature to be more fruitful now that Goat Hill can move past the scandals and impeachment process that engulfed the Statehouse.

Reed said the president pro tem is elected by all the members, while the majority leader and the minority leaders are elected by their respective parties, with the minority leader being Sen. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery. Reed has 26 members in his GOP majority causus, while Ross has eight.

“When we get on the floor, I am constantly communicating with Senator Ross so that he understands what is going on,” he said. “Even though we may not agree philosophically and we may not agree exactly what the calendar is going to be, there is a certain amount of constant professionalism. I’m letting you know. We’re communicating. You don’t need to be blindsided. I don’t want you to do that to me. That is an important thing we established. We are talking.” 

Senate Pro Tem Dale Marsh, R-Anniston, also helped in those communications with the majority members and the minority leader. However, with no replacement called for in the Alabama Constitution for the lieutenant governor (the office appeared dark on Wednesday), the rules of the Senate take over, leaving the president pro tem to preside in the Senate, Reed said. If that leader is not present, the majority leader takes over the gavel for the Senate.

But, more importantly, Reed doesn’t have a partner on the floor to manage the traffic, as Marsh has the gavel.

“Now, I am on the floor trying to manage the whole thing on my own,” taking on the president pro tem duties, too, Reed said. “One of the things that has been a restriction related to that that I didn’t think about that hit me right off the bat was I can’t leave the floor. I need to be here. I’ve had a couple of times where people needed to meet with me off the floor. I even had a situation where a school group came, and I’m trying the best I can to find a way to get them close enough to the chamber so I can visit with them.” 

The group ran late and couldn’t come anyway “and I’m off the hook,” he said.

But he said those additional responsibilities will continue to restrict him on flexibility in moving around. However, he said that is part of the process and he’s still honored to serve in the position.

As for Marsh, Reed described him as “capable and savvy,” with the process going smoothly for him, thanks in part to good relationships he already enjoys.

“It’s been a little bit funny in the first couple of days. He and I are looking at each other and winking and that kind of stuff. But we have a very good working relationship,” he said.

As for the impact of the governor’s scandal and resignation on this session, Reed said it has made work very difficult.

“I have a great working relationship with Kay Ivey, and have worked with her the whole time. She’s been the presiding officer of the Senate the six years I’ve been in public office,” he said, noting he met her for 90 minutes the previous week on a number of topics she wanted his input on. Another meeting was scheduled with her the following morning on healthcare, as she went to Washington on Wednesday to discuss the topic.

State Rep. Connie Rowe, R-Jasper, said on Friday she had met Ivey Thursday as well and found her to be more personable than she had expected, asking Rowe’s opinions about a variety of topics and giving her a good first impression.

Rowe said the governor’s scandal had bogged down the Legislature in the early part of this session.

“There were at least two weeks to where the focus of just about everything going on in this building was somehow impaired by that whole ordeal,” she said. “That’s just part of it. There were so many members who on some level or another had a role in the impeachment process.”

House members had to be focused on what was happening in the judiciary committee more than other area at times, with Rowe saying, “It jammed things up pretty good here in the State House.”

As for Bentley’s resignation, “It was almost like you could feel it,” Reed said, adding all attention was diverted to what would happen next to Bentley.

State Rep. Tim Wadsworth, R-Arley, said the resignation from Bentley was welcomed by most House members.

“When the governor changed out, it was not even a speed bump,” Wadsworth said. “People think the governor is really in charge of things, and it is really the Senate and the House. The change out was like a blip as if nothing really happened. It actually helped us to get rid of that issue. It more distracted the judiciary, because they had to deal with that. For everybody else, we were just waiting on the time to come.”

The decision to leave office came on a Monday. “When we came on Tuesday, there was a certain amount of anticipation, and, candidly, I was a little bit nervous because my responsibilities had grown.” However, overall, “there was a general attitude really of relief by the body. Exhale. Now, let’s suck in some new oxygen and be able to move on and do things valuable and important things for the people.” 

As a result, the past two weeks have been “robust” for the Sentate on major issues. “That’s a good sign overall,” he said, saying people were comfortable with Ivey and knew she was knowledgeable about the legislative process. “It was difficult but the right things have happened, and I think we are now in a place we can move on,” Reed said.