“At The Present Time I Have Absolutely No Intention Of…”

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Any person that has, even remote, connection to the world of politics has heard these words come out of the mouth of that political figure Perhaps the person most closely related to this phrase is the late, former Governor George C. Wallace. Wallace would often be approached by a constituent or reporter and asked a particularly controversial question. It was very common that he would respond with “Well you know, at the present time I have no intention do (insert whatever the subject might be)” only a week later to end up doing the exact opposite of what he had referenced. When that constituent or reporter would late remind the Governor that he had committed not to do a particular action Wallace would respond the “No, I never said that would not do (insert any particular thing) what I said was the – at this time I have no intention of… what you need to know is that my intentions have now changed”.

In the mid-1970’s, in Montgomery, Jim Robinson was the first Mayor of the City of Montgomery elected under the current Mayor/Council form of Government. Robinson was a rising political force and was rumored to be one of the favorites to run for Governor of Alabama in the 1978 elections. During his first term there was a very unfortunate incident involving the Montgomery Police Department and the Department’s actions. There were calls for Mayor Robinson to resign. Robinson, early on, responded “I have no intention of resigning”, or something very close to those words. Robinson was a man of faith who loved his family and his City. He was committed to doing what he believed was the right thing. He was committed to completing the job that he had been elected to rather than stepping away from the job in the heat of the moment. In the end the Mayor told some of his friends that if were just himself facing the publicity and criticism that he would have stayed in his role as Mayor and fought the attacks with all of
his being. In the end he made the decision to resign, according to him, because his family was unfairly being caught up in the process and that they had not signed up for those kind of attacks on his family. His actions were to protect the family he loved even though he had earlier said something to the effect “I have no intention of resigning”.

Fast forward to the early 1980’s. Hanley Funderburk was serving as President of Auburn University. When Funderburk assumed his position there were a number of policy changes he instituted including increased, and regular, office hours for faculty. He instituted greater financial controls and accountability for faculty and staff. To say that a majority of the faculty were unhappy would be a gross understatement. Dissention grew and morale among faculty and staff declined. There were calls for Funderburk to resign, or worse, for Governor Fob James and the Board of Trustees to fire Funderburk. Funderburk, who firmly believed he had acted only in the best interest of Auburn University, stated something to the effect “I have done nothing wrong and only acted in Auburn University’s best interest. I have absolutely no intention of resigning”. Eventually, the Faculty Senate called for a vote of “No Confidence” in the leadership of Funderburk. That vote was the beginning of the end. It mattered not that Funderburk had done what was right and prudent for the improvement of his beloved Auburn University. It mattered not that he in fact had, improved the fiscal condition of the University. What mattered was that the people he was entrusted to lead had lost the confidence in his ability to lead and he effectively became powerless. Funderburk wanted to stay and fight to prove that he was doing the right things but he, like Jim Robinson, agreed to resign to spare his wife, and family, the pain and attacks that were being leveled not only against him but also indirectly against his family. He had no intention of resigning but things changed and he finished his great career as President of Eastern Kentucky University. Intentions have a way of changing as circumstances change.

These two recollections are not to suggest that Governor Robert Bentley should resign his position as Governor of the State of Alabama. That decision, and for the time being Bentley has stated “I have no plans to resign”, is a decision that only Governor Bentley can make. In considering his future, Governor Bentley is in an unenviable position that will be very closely watched and critiqued by the media and the public. Regardless of what his final decision might be the process is going to be painful for the Governor and those close to him. In life, we all have circumstances that lead us to state our intentions one day only to see circumstances change and cause us to reevaluate what our “PRESENT INTENTIONS” might become.

Among the other intentions voiced by Governor Bentley is his intention to veto the General Fund Budget for Fiscal Year 2017 as passed by the Legislature this past week. The Budget, as sent to the Governor, is some $85 million short of funding Medicaid at the level proposed by the Governor and necessary to access the CMS 1115 Waiver funds of approximately $750 million over the next five (5) years. It is expected that the Legislature will override the Governor’s veto when they return from Spring Break forcing the need for a Special Session (or possibly multiple Special Sessions) of the Alabama Legislature to address the funding of Medicaid and the redrawing of a General Fund Budget. Without this additional funding for Medicaid, it is highly likely that the Medicaid transformation that has been worked on for the past four or five years will fall by the wayside.

The Legislature has completed 18 of its constitutionally allowed 30 Legislative Days for the 2016 Regular Session. The Legislature has adjourned for Spring Break and will return to Montgomery on Tuesday, April 5, 2016, with a great deal still facing them. The Education Trust Fund Budget has passed the House and has now been assigned to the Senate Finance & Taxation Committee – Education. It is expected that the Committee will debate the Education Trust Fund Budget in Committee when the Legislature returns the week of April 5. There are a number of other issues that are pending before the Legislature when they return that must/should be addressed before the final adjournment.

As mentioned before there is virtually no appetite to raise any taxes in either the House or the Senate and there remains a group of Republican Senators who are adamantly opposed to any tax increase. Hippocrates is quoted as saying, “Life is short, art long, opportunity fleeting, experience deceptive, judgement difficult”. Wise counsel for all. Physicians deal with the issues described by Hippocrates on a regular basis as recited in the Hippocratic Oath of “First, do no wrong”. Deciding what is “wrong” is not always an easy decision, particularly under the bright glare of the media. A wise man once said that he had taught his two daughters what he believed to be the three most important things in life to remember after their faith and love of family:

1) Life is not easy;

2) Life is not fair; and

3) You can marry more money in five minutes than you can make in a lifetime.

The third thing in the list may not be that important, but the first two are certainly concepts that we all can agree are true.

The Alabama House will reconvene at 1:00pm on Tuesday, April 5, 2016
The Alabama Senate will reconvene at 2:00pm on Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The views and opinions contained in this report do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the clients of Public Strategies, LLC