Ivey marks 100 days in office
Published 8:26 pm Wednesday, July 19, 2017
MONTGOMERY (AP) — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday marked her 100th day in office after being catapulted to the governorship by the sudden, scandal-tinged resignation of her predecessor.
Ivey in April had only a few hours of notice that Gov. Robert Bentley was about to resign. It was the same day Alabama lawmakers opened impeachment hearings against Bentley following accusations about an alleged affair with a staffer.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Ivey discussed her first days in office and the decisions that she made — calculated or not — that gave her political distance from Bentley.
“We’ve settled down. I’ve got my hands around a whole lot of stuff. We’re making progress and getting things done,” Ivey said.
One of Ivey’s first major decisions was to move up the special election to fill Jeff Sessions’ U.S. Senate seat to this year. Bentley had scheduled it for 2018, which would have avoided the cost of a special election but also would have allowed the person he appointed to take his place to hold the seat longer.
“It was the right decision to make. The people have the right to select who is going to serve as their U.S. senator,” Ivey said.
Ivey has slowly replaced much of Bentley’s Cabinet with her own picks. She also disbanded a number of gubernatorial task forces, including one established by Bentley to study gambling proposals after his lottery legislation failed.
Ivey, who presided over the Alabama Senate as lieutenant governor, said she also believed she has improved the office’s relationship with legislators.
“I’m proud of the relationship with the Legislature. It’s has been strained in the past. I’m pleased to make progress in that area, working with the House and Senate.”
Ivey said she wants to focus on education, infrastructure and economic development going forward, but declined to discuss specific proposals.
“We’ll be laying out some initiatives a little bit later for the Ivey administration to champion,” Ivey said.
She said the state needed more money to improve road and improve infrastructure. However, she acknowledged the political difficulties that a proposed gas tax increase has faced in the Alabama Legislature.
“While we’ve got more people working today than we’ve had working in the last decade, there are still some hundred thousand people in Alabama not working. My goal is for everybody who wants a job to have a job, but not just any job. I want them to have a job for which they are qualified and prepared and well-trained.”
A significant problem Ivey inherited is a troubled state prison system. A federal judge last month ruled that psychiatric care of state inmates is so “horrendously inadequate” that it violates the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment and ordered the state to overhaul conditions. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson wrote that severe shortages of mental health and correctional staff, and chronic overcrowding, are “the overarching issues” that lead to inadequate mental health care.
Ivey said lawyers are in discussions “trying to work out a way to go forward.”
“What’s important is the people of Alabama solve this problem, not the federal courts, whatever that takes.”
Ivey said she does not anticipate a special session in the near future. “We don’t need to have one just to have one,” Ivey said.
RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR
Ivey said she has not made a decision about seeking the office of governor in the 2018 election. Ivey is frequently asked by reporters about her campaign plans, and her decision could influence whether other Republicans jump into the race.
“I can understand everybody’s interest and whatever. … but I’ve only been here 100 days. One-hundred-and one days ago I was not governor and I need to govern for a period of time and start steering the ship. We’ve pretty much got it steadied. Now we’ve got to drive the ship.”