The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

February 18, 2013

Gov. Robert Bentley confident about future


But Bentley said he was just as excited about two smaller projects, the rebuilding of the Wrangler plant in tornado-ravaged Hackleburg and the recruitment of a Chinese copper tubing plant, which could bring 300-500 jobs to impoverished Wilcox County.

"To me that was up there with Airbus because I know how it is going to affect the lives of the people in Hackleburg and in Wilcox County," Bentley said.

But Bentley acknowledged the pace of the economic recovery has been frustrating.

"We've just been in a deep long recession in this country. But it is going to turn around at some point. And when it turns around, we are going to do well," Bentley said.

Bentley, a retired dermatologist from Tuscaloosa, was a two-term member of the Alabama House of Representatives with little name recognition when he launched his campaign for governor. "Nobody but the Lord and my oldest granddaughter," expected the win, Bentley has said. He pulled off a primary upset after the Alabama Education Association funded attack ads against Republican front-runner Bradley Byrne.

He is the first Republican governor to also have a GOP-controlled Legislature for his four-year term. Bentley signed bill after bill approved by lawmakers as the new GOP majority steamrolled through its first year.

His second year saw two legislative losses with the defeat of a charter school bill and industrial incentive legislation.

Many of the bills he signed had also been priorities for the new GOP legislative majority. But one of the controversial decisions rested squarely on his shoulders.

Bentley announced last year that he would not expand Alabama's Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act — which would cover more than 250,000 Alabamians — and he would also not set up a state health care exchange under the federal healthcare overhaul.

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