Governor Robert Bentley’s ceremonious bill signing in Mobile on Friday morning quickly went from business as usual to impeachment soap opera.
Bentley signed the Alabama Renewal Act into law, touting the two-part legislation’s focus on improving economic development in the Port of Mobile, where he appeared Friday morning.
But soon after handing out the pens he used to sign the bill, Bentley was confronted by reporters from WKRG News 5, who quickly asked how the sex scandal with his former political adviser Rebekah Mason was affecting his ability to recruit economically:
Here’s a transcript of the conversation between WKRG’s reporters and Governor Bentley:
News 5’s Debbie Williams: “What impact has the scandal had on recruitment–
Governor Robert Bentley: “Did you hear what I just said?”
Debbie: “Yes sir, but this is a legitimate question.”
Bentley: “No it’s not, okay? We’re here today, we signed a bill today to bring jobs to this state, and that’s what we’re working on.”
Debbie: “But have you had any blowback from the scandal as far as recruitment?”
Bentley: “Absolutely not. Absolutely not.”News 5’s Bill Riales: “Do you get the sense they’re cooling off on you in the legislature right now in the impeachment process?”(Bentley turns and angrily stares at Bill)
Bentley: “Did you hear what I said? Look, we are dealing with [the bill signing] today and we will deal with Montgomery. I have already made my statement and so, we’re moving on, okay?”
As we’ve reported, Alabama legislators say they need more information on the unprecedented impeachment process before they can move forward.
The articles of impeachment filed Tuesday are on hold as legislators work to set up a new committee to vet the process. The committee could have subpoena power to hear testimony on allegations against Bentley.
Republican Rep. Ed Henry, leading the call for impeachment, says the legislature “wasn’t prepared” for the situation. The last impeachment proceedings in Alabama occurred a century ago.
Rules Committee Chairman Mac McCutcheon says he hopes to work through the process quickly but couldn’t say if issue would be resolved before the end of session next month.
Bentley is entralled in a sex scandal over his alleged affair with former political adviser Rebekah Mason, who recently resigned. The allegations came from former ALEA Director Spencer Collier, who was fired by Bentley and came forward with a comprehensive list of accusations involving Mason and Bentley.
Collier said Mason’s profound influence over Bentley established her as the state’s “de facto governor.”
Soon after Collier went public, audio recordings purportedly arranged by a suspicious Dianne Bentley, the Governor’s ex-wife, was leaked to the press. In the recordings, first obtained by Yellowhammer, Bentley and a woman believed to be Mason can be heard engaging in a sexual conversation:
As for the Alabama Renewal Act, Bentley was joined in Mobile by other state and local leaders to talk-up the legislation, calling it a two-part bill that continues the state’s commitment to job creation and economic development.
“The Port of Mobile is a critical and valuable asset for industrial transportation of goods on the global market,” Governor Bentley said in a written statement.
“The signing of the Alabama Renewal Act is another clear signal that Alabama is serious about economic development and remains competitive nationwide. We have made great strides in how we recruit and retain companies in our state, and I am pleased to sign the Alabama Renewal Act to continue our efforts of job creation and promotion of our ’Made In Alabama’ brand.”
According to the Governor’s office, the Alabama Renewal Act increases the availability of shovel-ready land sites for economic development through the use of the Growing Alabama Credit.
The funds are limited to $5 million in 2016 and $10 million in 2017 through 2020. Each year, 25% of the funds must be set aside for projects in rural counties.
Second, the legislation helps increase cargo traffic at the state’s port facilities with a new Port Credit that will help Alabama businesses increase new opportunities around the world. The Port of Mobile is the 9th largest seaport in the United States, and it provides over 127,000 direct and indirect jobs.