By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—In a surprising move on Thursday, Governor Robert Bentley signed Executive Order 13 which overturned Executive Order 1 that disbanded the Governor’s Task Force on illegal gambling and directed Alabama’s Attorney General to enforce the laws related to gambling.
Executive Order 13 states the responsibility for enforcement of Alabama’s criminal laws lies with the elected sheriffs and district attorneys of each Alabama county, and should be guided by their respective interpretation of the laws of the State of Alabama in their capacity as constitutional officers and officers of the courts.
The move was roundly praised by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) as well as others including the Alabama Jobs Foundation.
Attorney General Luther Strange said, “Governor Bentley’s executive order is in line with my January 7, 2015, memo to Alabama District Attorneys and local law enforcement encouraging them to investigate and enforce our anti-gambling laws.” However, Strange made it clear the order did not affect pending litigation saying, “I have been assured by the Governor’s legal advisor that this executive order has no impact on the state’s pending litigation, which I expect will further clarify the law to the benefit of state and local law enforcement.”
In a press statement Marsh said, “The state and federal courts have now settled the question about whether or not we are going to have gaming — it is legal and it is here to stay. The question is whether or not we are going to allow the people to vote and use it to generate badly needed tax revenue and badly needed jobs. Governor Bentley has taken the bull by the horns on this issue and he has my full support. My priority, like the Governor, is making sure we have a job for every Alabamian. I look forward to the next Regular Session when the Senate and House will work together with the Governor to further this jobs agenda.”
This was echoed by the Alabama Jobs Foundation’s Executive Director Chip Hill who released the following, “The Governor’s action today reinforces a message the Alabama Jobs Foundation set forth at the outset of this debate: Gambling already exists in Alabama but we have not reaped the full financial impact nor have we maximized job creation opportunities. The Alabama Jobs Foundation will continue to fully support passage of the Constitutional Amendment proposed by Senator Del Marsh that will further regulate gaming, generate over 400 million dollars annually, provide over 11,000 new jobs, and have a statewide economic impact of over 1.2 billion dollars. Polling indicates that the people do not want the ultimate decision on this issue to be made by the legislature or the Governor. 89 percent of Alabamians want the final say by having the right to vote on gaming.”
A spokesperson for Greenetrack said “they applauds the Executive Order issued by Governor Bentley today. We support his decision to defer to local law enforcement on this issue. Governor Bentley’s actions today will have a major economic impact on the citizens of Greene County and will create much needed jobs and revenue for our community.”
More pros and cons will keep coming.