By House Speaker Mike Hubbard and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh
Conflict sells much better than cooperation. That’s especially true when it comes to politics and the media.
Recent newspaper articles and opinion pieces have attempted to portray a turbulent relationship between Governor Bentley and the Legislature. Take a few isolated quotes from a few members of the 140-member Legislature and it’s not too difficult to paint a negative picture. One woefully-inaccurate editorial built its entire Governor-versus-the-Legislature premise off a misquoted comment, as a criticism from Democrat Representative Joe Hubbard of Montgomery was mistakenly attributed to Republican Speaker Mike Hubbard from Auburn.
What have been noticeably missing from these stories are (accurate) comments from the Speaker of the House and President Pro Tem of the Senate. That’s because talk of quarreling and supposed ongoing tension between the executive and legislative branches couldn’t be further from the truth.
As leaders of the two legislative chambers, we can say without fear of contradiction that the Governor has a healthy working relationship with lawmakers in both the House and Senate. It won’t make the front page, but our weekly in-person meetings and constant communication between staff members has led to highly positive and productive cooperation between the Legislative and Executive Branches.
And we have results to show for it.
Just this past Legislative Session we worked as a team to enact a pension reform package that many thought impossible just a year ago. Governor Bentley took the lead from the beginning, bringing multiple parties together to craft a plan that will ensure the sustainability of the state’s retirement system – while saving taxpayers more than $5 billion over 30 years.
It was no small task, and it would have been doomed from the start had we been working apart. But prior to the legislative session, Governor Bentley worked diligently with key lawmakers and Retirement Systems of Alabama CEO Dr. David Bronner to identify a solution that would serve in the best interest of current state employees, teachers, retirees and for the taxpayers.
To be clear, legislation of this magnitude doesn’t pass on its own. It takes working each and every vote to answer questions and cover every angle of this complex issue. During the heat of the session, Governor Bentley and his staff worked overtime to make sure lawmakers understood the ins and outs of the comprehensive pension reform package.
The pension reform package passed without a lot of fanfare, probably because it wasn’t as entertaining as the hyperbolized partisan conflicts that arose on other issues. But, thanks to the Governor’s leadership, we were able to solve a complicated problem in a fiscally responsible manner.
That’s just one issue on which we worked closely with the Governor and his staff, but it embodies the kind of cooperation that has distinguished the legislative process of today from the constant bickering that derailed the process in the past.
Governor Bentley is also very supportive of legislative initiatives – like the Speaker’s Commission on Job Creation and the President Pro Tem’s Initiative to Streamline Government. Most recently, the Governor signed an executive order to begin implementing recommendations from Senator Marsh’s Public Safety Study Group aimed at increasing efficiency in the state’s public safety agencies.
Have there been disagreements? Of course. And with 140 members of the Legislature, you will continue to see minor disagreements here and there. That’s human nature – and definitely part of politics.
The true test of effective leadership is whether you can work through those disagreements to achieve a common goal. Working together between the Senate, House and the Governor’s Office, there’s no question we’ve passed that test.
It may not sell newspapers, but the quiet cooperation between the Governor Bentley and the Legislative Branch is producing positive results for Alabama taxpayers.
Del Marsh represents Calhoun County, portions of St. Clair County and serves as President Pro Tempore of the Alabama Senate. You may reach Senator Marsh by phone at (334) 242-7877 or by e-mail at [email protected]
Mike Hubbard represents the Auburn-Opelika area and serves as Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives. You may reach Speaker Hubbard by phone at (334) 242-7668 or by email at [email protected]