It hasn’t happened that way.
A few weeks ago, the governor vetoed a farmer-friendly bill because he questioned its constitutionality. At the time, this page suggested that legislators should communicate better with the governor’s office to make sure this sort of thing would not happen. As it turns out, the failure to communicate may be the governor’s, as well.
Although the governor’s party has a supermajority in both houses, he is having trouble getting some of the bills he wants even sponsored by legislators who should be his allies. This was the fate of the changes Bentley wanted in the immigration bill. As veteran Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills, noted, “Somebody has always been willing to take a bullet to save the governor embarrassment.” Not this time.
Did the governor understand the extent of the opposition? If he did, why did he continue to push for the changes?
While there have been many successes in the Republicans’ agenda, most of them seem to have been initiated by legislative leaders, leaving many to wonder who is in charge.
In response to such questions, the governor has pointed out that he meets regularly with legislators and that his chief of staff, David Perry, is in constant communication with leaders of the House and Senate. That, however, is considered by some to be part of the problem. They want to deal directly with the governor, not “Ambassador Perry,” as he is called.
Of course, this criticism may be overblown. The governor and legislators are of the same party, and so their agendas are similar. Why, some ask, should they meet to discuss what they already agree on? However, in the 2012 regular session, six of the governor’s vetoes or executive amendments were overridden by lawmakers who should be his allies.
That does not bode well for the future.
Although Bentley is fond of saying he is not an “accidental governor,” the fact remains that many Republicans who are powerful in the Legislature supported his opponent in the GOP primary. The bitterness that followed the Bentley nomination still lingers.
If the governor is to be an effective leader, it is essential that he establish a more efficient means of communicating with legislators. More important, he needs to listen to what they are saying.
As for the legislators, they must remember that communication — talking and listening — goes both ways.