By Minority Leader Rep. Craig Ford
Late Saturday night, Inside Alabama Politics reported that Republicans in the Alabama Legislature will introduce their own gambling bill this week, which will include a lottery and authorization for a possible compact with the Poarch Creek Indians.
On the one hand, I’m glad to see Republicans embracing the Democratic Party’s legislative agenda. A lottery has been a part of Democrats’ platform for decades, and I’ve been proud to sponsor the lottery bill every year since I became Minority Leader.
On the other hand, it’s a sad statement on the extreme partisanship in Montgomery. Even after Rep. Steve Clouse, the Republican chairman of the General Fund budget committee, signed on as a co-sponsor of my lottery bill, the Republican leadership in the legislature still couldn’t bear to support a Democrat’s bill. Instead, they will take my lottery bill and Rep. Thomas Jackson’s (D-Thomasville) resolution authorizing the governor to negotiate a compact with the Poarch Creek Indians, and combine them into one Senate bill just so they can say it’s a Republican bill instead of a Democrats’ bill.
This kind of behavior is downright childish and insulting to the taxpayers!
Before I introduced my lottery bill, I asked several Republicans, including all the members on the Ways and Means – General Fund committee, to co-sponsor my bill. I understand why most of them didn’t want their name attached to it, even though a majority of those I spoke with do support it. And I am more than happy to work with my Republican colleagues to amend my lottery bill to address their concerns.
This should not be a partisan issue. The lottery is supported by a majority of people in both Parties. It is a way to raise as much as $280 million annually and voluntarily in new revenue for the state without raising taxes. A compact would also be voluntary, and generate millions in new revenue. I think most people would agree they’d rather have a lottery and compact than more taxes. Political Party shouldn’t even enter into the equation!
But make no mistake: I support the lottery, regardless of who sponsors it or what political party they belong to. I haven’t had a chance to read the Republican bill yet, but I will most likely support it as long as it is a clean bill with no pork or other unexpected twists.
I just think it’s sad that our legislative leaders would pull a stunt like this, and even more sad if they think people aren’t going to see it for what it is.
But I’m not going to complain. I’m just glad the people may finally get a chance to vote on the lottery. And since the Republicans are embracing the Democrats’ legislative agenda, maybe we didn’t lose the 2014 elections after all?
Rep. Craig Ford is a Democrat from Gadsden and the Minority Leader in the Alabama House of Representatives.