MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Four years after candidate Robert Bentley promised to create a Cabinet-level small business position, Gov. Robert Bentley followed up Monday by appointing a commission to recommend ways the state can help small businesses get started and expand.
Bentley signed an executive order forming the Alabama Small Business Commission. He said it is in place of his 2010 campaign promise to have a Cabinet-level position in his administration to focus on small business.
“This actually does take the place of that. The commission is really better because the commission will be made up of all small businesses,” he told reporters after signing the executive order at the Capitol.
Bentley said the commission will be headed by Rosemary Elebash, Alabama director for the National Federation of Independent Business and a longtime advocate for small businesses.
Elebash said the commission will do more than write a report. “My commitment is it is not going to be another notebook on the shelf,” she said.
Bentley said the commission’s recommendations will be presented to the Legislature in 2015 and 2016.
In addition to Bentley, three other Republican officeholders, Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey, House Speaker Mike Hubbard and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, are making appointments to the 21-member commission. All four are standing for election Nov. 4.
Bentley’s Democratic opponent, Parker Griffith, responded to the announcement by noting that in July, Alabama was the only state with an unemployment rate higher than a year ago.
“Alabama is the only state in America where unemployment is going up and, after four years in office, the best idea Robert Bentley has is to create a commission. We are in the midst of the Bentley Recession in Alabama,” Griffith said in a written statement.
At the signing ceremony in Montgomery, Hubbard said the commission is a continuation of what the Republican-led Legislature has done the last four years to cut bureaucracy and eliminate red tape. “Our focus is to make Alabama the most business-friendly state in America,” he said.
Marsh said he ran for the Legislature in 1998 because he was a small business owner frustrated with government bureaucracy.
Some other states have appointed panels or high-ranking officials to help small businesses. For instance, Maryland’s governor created the Governor’s Commission on Small Business in 2010. It has a mix of public officials and private citizens like Bentley’s. North Carolina’s governor appointed a small business commissioner in 2010.
Bentley said he and legislative leaders plan to complete their appointments to Alabama’s commission soon and schedule the first meeting in October.
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