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Gaming Bill Receives Favorable Report

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

A plan being promoted by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) to use a lottery and casinos at the four existing dog tracks to provide funding for Alabama’s troubled General fund in lieu of tax increases received a favorable report from the Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee on a 5 to 3 vote. Senate Democrats supported the favorable report on Marsh’s SB453.

SB453 is a proposed constitutional amendment that would establish an Alabama Lottery, regulated Class III gaming at racetracks where pari-mutuel wagering is currently legal (Birmingham, Mobile, Shorter, and Greene County), establish a 14 percent state gross receipts tax, a tax on vendors of gaming equipment, and create a Alabama Lottery and Gaming Commission to regulate and administer gaming. The bill would also authorize Governor Robert Bentley (R) to negotiate a compact with Poarch Band of Creek Indians who already have electronic bingo facilities in Atmore, Montgomery and Wetumpka.

Opponents of gambling spoke at the public hearing. They argued that the social costs of expanding gaming are not justified by the benefits and revenues. Nationally gaming has been oversaturated for years. The Poarch Band of Creek Indians also spoke in opposition to the bill.

The vote to approve the proposal puts it in line for consideration by the full Senate next week.

The vote by three Republicans against the proposed constitutional amendment is ominous because approval requires a three-fifths vote of both the State Senate and the House of Representatives. The Speaker of the House of Representatives Mike Hubbard is backing another plan that would give the Poarch Creeks a gaming monopoly in exchange for a $250 million one time fee and taxes on future Indian gaming. Other legislators support right sizing the state budget without raising taxes or using a hastily negotiated gambling deal to prop up the General Fund. Governor Bentley has been jetting around the state for months promoting massive tax increases and has been skeptical of the Marsh plan.  Nobody in the legislature has publicly endorsed Bentley’s $541 million tax package.

If somehow SB453 gets out of the legislature it still would have to face a vote of the people in September.

Sen. Harri Anne Smith (I-Slocumb) is demanding that any gaming bill include a Houston County facility. Smith wrote on Facebook, “Report from Committee……Politics as usual …Republican.Del Marsh’s Gaming bill came out of committee without an amendment adding Houston Co. Go Figure! It was a bad bill to start with filled with “SPECIAL INTEREST LOCATIONS”. When you start with a bill that only allows certain facilities in the State it can’t help but have been a special interest bill. Senator Marsh Voice Voted the addition of Houston County and it was evident that the votes were there to add Houston Co. but Senator Marsh had a plan and it didn’t include Houston Co. When you have a Super Majority and you are the leader and the sponsor of the bill that is what happens. I am DONE WITH THIS ISSUE……IF ANYONE THINKS THAT HOUSTON CO. WILL EVER BE ADDED IT WOULD BE A MIRICLE.”

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Smith said, “Senator Marsh says he is coming back with a bill to set up a gaming commission that will select the locations with an application process……yea right….Do you really believe they will appoint the members to that commission that are not going to do what the leadership wants. I guess I am just frustrated today with the fact that POLITICS IN MONTGOMERY WITH THE LEADERSHIP THAT IS IN CONTROL NOW, IS NO BETTER THAN WHAT WE HAVE HAD IN THE PAST.”

Sen. Marsh says an Alabama lottery and casino gaming would create a $1.2 billion annual economic impact for the State of Alabama, and generate almost $400 million in new revenue for State programs.  Marsh claims that his bill would lead to 11,000 new jobs in Mobile, Birmingham, Macon and Greene County.

Marsh bases these claims on a study conducted by the Institute for Accountability and Government Efficiency at Auburn University of Montgomery (AUM).

Sen. Marsh said in a statement, “These two ideas will generate hundreds of millions of new dollars for State programs at a time when essential government services may be cut. And 11,000 new jobs that will positively impact families throughout our State.”

The AUM study predicts that an Alabama lottery will generate $332 million annually for State programs, while casino gaming, which would allow Class III gaming like table games and slot machines, would generate an additional $74 million. The projected casino revenue is based upon proceeds taxed at a combined state and local rate of 15 percent. The State’s share, based upon a state tax rate of 14 percent, would be $64 million.

Marsh said, “At a time when we are talking about either massive budgets cuts or higher taxes, this is certainly something we need to take a look at and consider.”

There are only 8 days left in the legislative session.

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Josh Moon

Opinion | The people have always been more important than the monuments

Josh Moon

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Two participation trophies fell in Alabama on Monday night. 

No tears were shed. 

On the same day that the state “celebrated” Confederate Memorial Day — which is somehow still a state holiday some 150 years after the traitorous South surrendered in its quest to make legal the ownership of other human beings — a large monument in Birmingham’s Linn Park went away piece by piece and a metal statue of Robert E. Lee was toppled and hauled away from its spot outside of a Montgomery high school. 

This is progress, I guess. At least those eyesores are gone (for now, in the case of the Lee statue), even if the attitudes that kept them in place remain. 

It is no secret by now that I have never understood the fervor with which so many people in this state cling so tightly to reminders of defeated traitors who fought to enslave black people. 

I mean, I understand why racists cling to them. I don’t understand how those who claim to “not have a racist bone in my body” also cling to them. I don’t understand our state lawmakers creating laws to protect them. 

Monuments are meant to honor the people depicted in them. You don’t see us creating monuments of the 9/11 hijackers at the former World Trade Center site, do you? 

You know why? Because while that day was historic and we’ll want to remember those who died forever, we don’t honor those who caused that devastation. 

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But then, I don’t actually think anyone is confused by this. The cries of “protecting history” or “not erasing history” are nothing more than phony excuses meant to mask the true intent of cowards too ashamed or too scared to say what they really mean. 

And what they really mean is that they still cling to this notion of white supremacy. They’re just too scared of the societal backlash to put on a white hood and attend the meetings. 

These people see the removal of the Confederate monuments as a loss — a personal loss. Because that tie to the confederacy and the sad, pathetic belief that they were somehow superior because of the color of their skin has sustained them throughout their lives. 

That’s why they cling so tightly to these relics of the past — because those relics represent their “heritage” and their worth. 

It doesn’t matter at all that poor whites and poor blacks have so much more in common in 2020 than poor whites and rich whites. If the two groups ever bonded, ever formed a mutually beneficial coalition, they could — by the power of their numbers — change America overnight to a more just, more equitable country. 

But they won’t, because poor white people would lose their ability to look down on someone. And really, what good is life if you can’t make certain that someone out there has it worse than you? 

And so, here we are, more than 150 years after the end of the Civil War and more than 60 years since Dr. King crossed the bridge in Selma, still fighting battles over race and discrimination and hatred and intolerance. 

Maybe the protests of George Floyd’s killing will finally be the straw to break this thing. Maybe the days of everything being on fire, along with those awful images of Floyd, will instill in the minds of enough people that there really are problems.

Maybe we can finally stop holding onto these relics of the past and concern ourselves more with holding onto each other. 

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National

Alabama leaders remember Auburn head football Coach Pat Dye

Brandon Moseley

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via Madison Ogletree / The Auburn Plainsman

On Monday, former Auburn football head Coach and Athletic Director Pat Dye died from kidney and liver failure. He had recently tested positive for COVID-19 as well. He was age 80. Many Alabama leaders commented fondly on the legendary Auburn football Coach from 1981 to 1992.

Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) said in a statement, “If there was a college football version of Mount Rushmore, Pat Dye could be there among the greats. Not only did he bring Auburn football back into prominence by winning games, SEC Championships, and what probably should have been a 1983 National Championship, he was a wonderful molder of young men. While he will long be remembered for the games he won and the contributions he made to the great Auburn-Alabama rivalry, there are hundreds of people who were touched by him who will carry on his legacy for decades to come.”

U.S. Senate candidate former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville said, “Today is a sad day for the Auburn community with the loss of Coach Pat Dye. Coach Dye was a true Auburn man and believed in the value of hard work and “a sound mind, in a sound body and a spirit that is not afraid, and in clean sports that develop these qualities.” He helped to instill these Auburn principles in players and fans alike. He was one of the coaching greats of the game, and many including myself learned invaluable lessons from watching him. My thoughts and prayers are with his family for peace and comfort during this time.”

U.S. Senate candidate former Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, “The state of Alabama has lost one of its legendary coaches in Pat Dye. The field at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn is named for him. He won four SEC championships at Auburn University, and he coached my choice for the world’s greatest athlete, Bo Jackson, and others like Tracy Rocker, the tremendous Outland Award winner. Coach Dye’s teams were famous for their toughness and fighting spirit and for never quitting. He brought the Iron Bowl to Auburn and won an upset victory in that historic first game at Auburn in 1989. Pat Dye never lost his country roots or his common touch. My condolences to Coach Dye’s family, and to the entire Auburn family.”

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) said, “I am saddened to hear of the passing of Coach Pat Dye — a great man, coach and member of the Auburn family. Not only was he a phenomenal football coach, but an even better person. For years, I have known Pat personally and have always valued his friendship and colorful commentary. He had great takes on both football and life. Coach Dye truly embodied the Auburn spirit. He will be missed not only by the Auburn family, but the entire state of Alabama. War Eagle, Coach. Your life and legacy lives on.”

Former State Rep. Perry O. Hooper Jr (R-Montgomery) said, “We lost a great Coach and a Great American today!Coach Pat Dye passed away this morning.”

U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) said, “Coach Dye was larger than life-a true legend. Not only did he win countless Auburn football games at the helm of championship teams, but more importantly he won the hearts of so many in Alabama and beyond. He truly was a man of great character and my heart is heavy hearing the news of his recent passing. Louise and I will be keeping his loved ones in our prayers.”

U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) said, “‪Coach Dye was always so friendly, encouraging, and just a true joy to be around. Rebecca and I join so many others in mourning his passing and remembering a life most certainly well lived.”

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Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan said, “Moments I’ll always remember and be grateful for- celebrating my birthday with an Auburn man and legend. Wings up Coach as he walks humbly with God. “I believe in my Country, because it is a land of freedom and because it is my own home, and that I can best serve that country by doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with my God.”-Auburn creed.”

“I was saddened to hear about Coach Dye’s passing this morning,” said Second Congressional District candidate Barry Moore. “Everyone in Alabama knew him, and those who knew him well knew what a fine person he was.”

Auburn Athletics Director Allen Greene said, “For four decades, Coach Dye showed all of us what it looks like to be an Auburn person. His coaching exploits are well known, securing his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. His skills as an administrator were equally formidable, resulting most notably in bringing the Iron Bowl to Jordan-Hare Stadium. Just like his football teams, Pat Dye the athletic director was tenacious, never backing down from a fight when he believed Auburn’s good name and best interests demanded it. Thanks to his tenacity, I’ll always treasure my first home Iron Bowl, celebrating victory on the field that bears his name.”

Current Auburn Head Football Coach Gus Malzahn said, “Coach Dye was much more than a hall of fame coach and administrator at Auburn. He was an Auburn leader and visionary. He not only returned the football program back to national prominence during his tenure, but was a key figure in bringing the Iron Bowl to Auburn and made an impact on the university and in the community. He embodied what Auburn is about: hard work, toughness and a blue collar mentality. Coach Dye’s impact on Auburn is endless and will stand the test of time. “

Dye also coached for six seasons at East Carolina University and one season with the University of Wyoming. Dye played football at the University of Georgia and was an assistant football coach under legendary University of Alabama head football Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. Dye’s overall record as a head coach was 163-62-5. He was 99-39-4 at Auburn where he is the third winningest coach in the history of the program.

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Environment

Above-normal hurricane season predicted

Eddie Burkhalter

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Monday marks the first day of hurricane season, and in a statement Monday, Gov. Kay Ivey warned of the potential of numerous hurricanes this season. 

“June 1 marks the first day of hurricane season, and as we know, Alabama is far too familiar with the uncertainty and damage that accompanies any severe weather. The National Weather Service is predicting an above-normal 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, which runs now through November 30,” Ivey said in a statement. 

“As our country focuses on safely reopening our economy and combatting a health pandemic, it is also vitally important we remember to make preparations now for any severe weather, because hurricanes, tornadoes and severe weather will not wait for us to be ready. Hurricane preparedness must still be a focus for every Alabamian,” Ivey continued. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts a 60 percent chance of an above-normal season. 

“NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a likely range of 13 to 19 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 6 to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 6 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher),” according to NOAA’s website.

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Elections

Tuberville: Arson, rioting, vandalism, violence are not valid forms of protest

Brandon Moseley

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Monday, U.S. Senate candidate former Auburn head football Coach Tommy Tuberville (R) said that Arson, looting, rioting, vandalism, and violence are not valid forms of protest-they are felonies.”

Tuberville made the comments after planned protests over the death of George Floyd during an arrest by the Minneapolis Police Department rapidly descended into violence, destruction, and mayhem over the weekend across the countries, particularly in Birmingham where much of the downtown was ransacked by an angry mob.

Tuberville said that these crimes, “Must be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”

“Vandalizing the Lincoln Memorial does not honor the life of George Floyd,” Tuberville said. “Looting stores and stealing televisions will not stop another death like George Floyd’s from occurring.”

Tuberville also addressed the attacks on members of the press Sunday night in Birmingham.

“Beating journalists and robbing them of their wallets and telephones is not a social statement,” Tuberville stated. “It is simply felons being felons.”

In Birmingham, Members of the media were attacked during the protest. ABC 33/40 TV News reporter Stephen Quinn was sucker punched by a masked protestor and then hit in the head with a cup of ice by a second rioter, while the first assailant robbed him of his wallet. The Alabama Medica Group’s Madison Underwood was hit in the face by masked assailants, then beaten to the ground where he continued to be beaten until his colleagues were able to drag him away.

“That was terrible. I’m glad my colleagues are okay,” Underwood said. “I’m okay. My nose is swollen and bleeding. My phone is gone. I’m thankful to the folks who dragged me out of there, who checked on me, who said nice things. Not sure why that went bad so quickly.”

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Reporters Anna Beahm, Ivana Hrynkiw, and photographer Dez Wilson were also terrorized,

“Unless anarchy is met with the rule of law, the foundation of our nation will begin to crumble, so I support President Trump’s decision to declare Antifa a terrorist organization and his calls to use the National Guard to stop further riots,” Tuberville said.

Over a dozen buildings in Birmingham were also attacked including: the Harbert Center, Alabama Power museum, federal courthouse, and the Confederate Veterans Monument.

“Condemning every police officer across the nation for the actions of a few makes no sense,” Tuberville continued. “The police officers who have had bricks and rocks thrown at them over in recent days wear the same uniform and badge as the officers who bravely ran into the World Trade Center on 9/11 to save lives. Without the man and women in blue, criminals would routinely rule our streets, just as they have in major cities across the U.S. for the past few nights.”

“I don’t think anyone can watch the 10-minute video and not feel outrage, anger, and sadness about what happened to George Floyd,” Tuberville said. “From all appearances, he had the life slowly squeezed out of him, and it could have been avoided.”

“I feel strongly that if someone is guilty of committing murder, they should be put on trial, convicted, and imprisoned, and if someone is guilty of looting a store, setting fire to a business, or vandalizing property, they should be convicted, tried, and locked up, too,” Tuberville concluded.

Tuberville is running for the Senate in the July 14 Republican Party primary runoff against former Senator Jeff Sessions. The winner will go on to face incumbent Sen. Doug Jones (D-Alabama) in the November 3 General Election.

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