UPDATE 5:23 PM:
In a news release sent late Friday the governor announced plans to open most of the shuttered drivers license offices on a very limited basis. The release reads in part:
“After careful consideration of options regarding the closure of 31 Driver’s License offices in Alabama’s rural counties, I have asked that an Alabama Law Enforcement Agency examiner be provided one day a month to service those counties affected.”
An office in Bay Minette and 32 others like it have been closed since October 1st. The governor puts distance between himself and the license office closures he allowed.
“It’s a rural problem, it’s a funding problem, it’s really not my problem,” said Bentley. He teased a possible solution too–but wouldn’t say what it was.
“It’s going to help alleviate the problem, not totally we just don’t have enough money,” said Bentley. Some in his own party accused Bentley of punishing lawmakers for not raising enough taxes. I asked him about that.
“Any punishment that takes place is punishment by the lawmakers this is not my doing I’m not trying to punish anyone, I’m trying to help clean up their mess,” said Bentley. The governor said he’s not to blame for longer lines or longer drives to get or new a driver’s license.
“They need to call their legislator and say did you vote for reasonable taxes that would have fixed this,” said Bentley.
Even though you can get a free voter ID in every Alabama county prominent democrats accused the governor of hurting voting rights with the closures. That question brought Bentley to life.
“This is not a racial issue, it is not a voter id issue this is a rural issue and lack of funding by the state legislature and that is it, this has nothing to do with voting rights,” said Bentley emphatically. More than a year ago Bentley’s re-election campaign put up signs around the state touting “no new taxes.” In front of a crowd in mobile Friday morning Bentley said, in essence, the state needs more money.
“The state has a revenue problem,” said Bentley.