The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

February 18, 2013

Gov. Robert Bentley confident about future


"The way we dealt with the tornadoes helped people decide whether they had a leader as a governor or not, Bentley said.

Asked what he would do differently over the last two years, Bentley, without naming names, suggested difficulty with a few personnel decisions but did not elaborate. He also acknowledged a bit of a learning curve in working with the Legislature.

"We had a brand new Legislature that had never been in the majority before. ... Well, you have to learn how to govern. You can't always be the challengers," Bentley said.

Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, had words of praise for Bentley.

"I think the governor has done a great job. I think the people of Alabama believe it as well by just looking at his approval ratings," Hubbard said.

Others disagreed.

"I'd say a C-minus to a D-plus," said House Minority Leader Craig Ford, D-Gadsden.

"He started off with a bang and he has gone downhill ever since," Ford said. Ford was critical of Bentley's decision not to expand Medicaid.

Natalie Davis, a pollster and political scientist at Birmingham-Southern College, said voters have a comfort with Bentley partly because he has not done anything to shake them up.

"There are no highs and lows. There is just mediocrity," Davis said of his administration.

Looking forward to the next two years, Bentley said he is excited by the prospects for the state, although he acknowledges the state still faces serious budget and economic challenges.

One of the challenges is the effort to overhaul and contain costs in the state's Medicaid program. Bentley said he will "most likely" follow the recommendations of his advisory commission on Medicaid to divide the state into regions of community-based managed care networks.

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