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Siegelman Says: Not This Lottery

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Seventeen years ago, one Alabama Governor proposed a lottery amendment to the Constitution. It sailed through the Alabama Legislature and went to the people of Alabama who decisively rejected the proposal. Now a new Alabama Governor, Robert Bentley (R), is proposing a new lottery amendment; but that former Governor, Don Siegelman (D), is urging that this new lottery proposal be rejected.

Gov. Siegelman said, “I had been asking the people of Alabama to establish a lottery since 1989. Over and over I pleaded “Every child, regardless of where they are born or to whom, deserve the right to quality education and every child should have the hope and dream of knowing that if they make their grades and stay out of trouble, they’ll be able to go to college free. In 1998 I was elected Governor again calling for an “Education Lottery”. A Georgia style lottery with 100% of the proceeds going into the “Alabama Education Trust Fund”.

Siegelman said that his lottery trust fund would have paid for Pre-K, college scholarships for most high school graduates, and school technology while Gov. Bentley’s lottery is being promoted by, “Hypocrites who opposed the lottery before now want to be bailed out from having to pass tax reform to force large foreign corporations, out of state, multinational corporations to pay their fair share of taxes. Hundreds of companies make billions of profits in Alabama but don’t pay a penny. Foreign corporations which own nearly 30% of our timber land, pay only pennies in taxes compared to our neighbor, Georgia.” “Some of these same people who fought the lottery in 1999, whose greed or lust for power cheated our children out of a better life, want Alabama voters to bail them out.”

Gov. Bentley’s lottery would go towards Alabama’s state general fund’s needs primarily: economic incentives; prison improvements, and Alabama Medicaid, which is costing the state $700 million in fiscal year 2016

Gov. Siegelman claimed that, “Medicaid would not be in trouble in the first place if elected Alabama politicians had accepted the billions of dollars that came along with the Affordable Care Act. They foolishly looked that gift horse in the mouth, yelping political criticism at President Obama trying to curry political favor.”

Siegelman wrote, “Governor Bentley, a staunch Baptist, once joined the loud “Christian” refrain opposing a lottery as a sin, immoral, something so wicked it would surely usher in prostitution, muggings, robberies and create a wave of gambling addiction. These were the arguments used by opponents to defeat the “Education Lottery” referendum in 1999.”

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Siegelman blamed Baptists, Karl Rove, Ralph Reed (then President of the Christian Coalition), lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Mike Scanlon, then Congressman Bob Riley (R), and the Mississippi Choctaw Indian casinos for his stunning 1999 lottery referendum failure. Seigelman said that his opponents engaged in a money laundering scheme to funnel up to $20,000,000 from the Indian casinos into Alabama to defeat him, the lottery, and other gaming proposals.

Ironically it was the lottery referendum that ultimately led to Siegelman’s prosecution and present incarceration. Jurors found Siegelman guilty of agreeing to put then Heathsouth CEO Richard Scrushy on the Board that certifies hospital construction in exchange for a $250,000 contribution to his pro-lottery media blitz…..a charge that Seigelman hotly contests to this day. Siegelman contends that his indictment by then U.S. Attorney Leura Canary was timed to help then Gov. Bob Riley, whose campaign was supported by Leura’s husband, Business Council of Alabama (BCA) President William “Billy” Canary.

Siegelman said, “Today, I am not even sure how much money a lottery would yield, but I do know this, whatever it might raise should go to educate our children and voters should not let the Governor or Alabama Legislature get their hands on a penny of it. So I say, ‘Maybe a lottery, but not this lottery.’”

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Democrats are hoping to use the lottery as an issue to build support for a comeback at some point in the future, like Seigelman did in 1998 (unseating Gov. Fob James (R)). Siegelman is the only Democrat to win a gubernatorial election in Alabama since George C Wallace (D) defeated Montgomery Mayor Emory Fulmer (R) in 1982 (Wallace’s fourth and final term as Governor). Republicans also know this and some contend are planning on passing this GOP lottery version to take the issue away from Democrats, who won’t be able to pull lottery funding from the general fund once it gets entrenched there. Voters who give the legislature a lottery are also going to be reluctant to then vote for any kind of a tax increase in the future.

Gov. Bentley has called a special session of the legislature that begins on August 15. State Senator Jim McClendon (R from Springville) and State Representative Allen Harper (R from Northport) are reportedly working on the controversial lottery proposal. A state lottery is expressly forbidden by Alabama’s 1901 Constitution so no lottery can pass without a vote of the people of Alabama. If a lottery passes through both Houses of the Legislature it would likely be on the November 8 ballot.

Gov. Siegelman is expected to be released from prison in August of 2017.

(Original reporting by CBS New Channel 42 contributed to this report.)

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Health

Jefferson County health officer, UAB head say COVID-19 numbers are improving but flu season is near

Eddie Burkhalter

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Dr. Mark Wilson and Will Ferniany, the CEO of the UAB Health System, held a press briefing on Friday to discuss the state of coronavirus and what’s being done to mitigate the disease

Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Mark Wilson said Friday that the county’s COVID-19 numbers are improving, but with schools reopening and flu season approaching, it’s critical for the public to continue wearing face masks and practicing social distancing. 

Wilson and Will Ferniany, the CEO of the UAB Health System, held a press briefing on Friday to discuss the state of coronavirus and what’s being done to mitigate the disease that has killed 1,825 people in Alabama and infected 102,196.

In the last few weeks, the number of new daily COVID-19 cases and the percent of tests that are positive in Jefferson County has begun to decline, Wilson told reporters, but he put that decline into perspective. 

“Keep in mind though that this is a slight improvement from being at a pretty bad place with really high numbers, so we still have a long way to go,” Wilson said. 

There have been 13,682 confirmed coronavirus cases and 262 deaths in Jefferson County as of Friday, and 939 cases were added within the last week. The county’s seven-day average of new daily cases fell from its peak of 295 on July 18 to 156 on Thursday.

Wilson said there is good evidence that the county’s face covering order is making a difference in the spread of the disease, and that he thanks the public for making that difference, and asked that they keep doing so. 

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“We have four levels of surge,” Ferniany said, referring to UAB Hospital’s process of temporarily adding hospital bed capacity for COVID-19 patients by removing beds from other areas. “We’re on level two capacity.” 

Ferniany said the hospital is running at 90 percent capacity, which he said is a “very full hospital” and that between March and around July 20, the hospital was caring for between 60 and 70 coronavirus patients daily, and reached a peak of 130 patients a little more than a week ago. 

“Today we’re at 97 patients in-house, and roughly 40 percent are in the ICU,” Ferniany said. 

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Ferniany said the hospital’s ability to care for COVID-19 patients is now limited by the numbers of nurses and other staff, and that UAB is “down several hundred nurses” and burnout from long periods of caring for coronavirus patients is common. 

Both Ferniany and Wilson said they’re very concerned about the upcoming flu season and the impact it could have on hospital capacity, as physicians continue to care for COVID-19 patients. 

“The 2018-2019 flu season was the worst flu season we have seen in 40 years, and we actually asked the governor back then to declare a state of emergency because our hospitals were full then with influenza,” Wilson said. 

Wilson urged the public to get their annual flu shots once available on Sept. 1 to help prevent additional strain on hospitals statewide. Public health officials worry that the combination of flu and COVID-19 could be difficult to handle — both on a system-wide level and the level of an individual person.

“We have no reason to think that somebody can’t get the flu and COVID-19 at the same time, which could be a deadly combination,” Wilson said. 

Wilson said while he isn’t certain what Gov. Kay Ivey may decide about the statewide mask order, but “in Jefferson County, it’s very likely I’m going to be pushing to continue face coverings through the flu season,” Wilson said.

Wilson in July advised school superintendents in Jefferson County that middle and high school students should attend school virtually only for the first nine weeks, a stronger recommendation than most superintendents elsewhere have received. 

Wilson told reporters Friday that his recommendation for virtual-only classes to start was done to keep kids, teachers, staff and families safe. 

“We’re probably going to have some cases. It’s inevitable, but what we want to do is everything we can as kids go back to school to reduce the spread within school so that schools can stay open.” 

There are also preliminary plans for a new testing site for children as schools reopen, Wilson said, but those plans continue to be developed. 

Ferniany said UAB Hospital on Thursday got initial approval from the hospital’s board to expand COVID-19 testing capacity. 

Our goal is to try to expand it significantly by the end of December. We probably can’t get it up faster than that, but this pandemic is not going away by the end of December so I think we will have a significant increase in our ability to have rapid tests in place by the end of this year,” Ferniany said.

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Health

Seventeenth Alabama inmate dies after testing positive for COVID-19

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

William Edward King, 65, is the 17th Alabama inmate to die after testing positive for COVID-19.

King tested positive for COVID-19 on June 1 at a local hospital, where he was being treated for an end-stage preexisting medical condition, the Alabama Department of Corrections announced on Thursday.

King’s condition improved, and he was released, but his health worsened, and he was returned to the hospital on July 26. He was discharged from the hospital on Aug. 11 and was taken to a hospice care area inside the Kilby Correctional Facility, where he died later that day.

Six more inmates and another staff member have also tested positive for COVID-19, ADOC said Thursday.

There have been 296 confirmed coronavirus cases among inmates and 340 self-reported cases among prison staff. Two prison workers at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women have died after testing positive for COVID-19.

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Congress

Ivey urges Alabamians to complete census or risk losing federal funding, seat in Congress

Micah Danney

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Gov. Kay Ivey urged all Alabama residents to complete the 2020 census before the Sept. 30 deadline in a 30-second video released on Friday.

In the video, Ivey said, “Complete your 2020 Census today. We only have until Sept. 30th. Without you, Alabama stands to lose billions in funding, a seat in Congress and economic development opportunities.

“It only takes minutes to complete. Go to my2020census.gov or participate by phone or mail. Be counted – if not for you, for those in Alabama who depend on you for a brighter tomorrow.”

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National

Jones says Mitch McConnell failed country by adjourning without COVID-19 aid

Eddie Burkhalter

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U.S. Sen. Doug Jones speaks during a livestreamed press briefing. (VIA SEN. DOUG JONES'S OFFICE)

Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, on Friday expressed his concern over the Senate majority leader adjourning the Senate without passing another round of COVID-19 relief aid.  

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, adjourned the Senate until Sept. 8 without passage of relief aid that Jones said is critical for struggling citizens and businesses. 

Jones’s statement:

“Mitch McConnell’s decision to adjourn the Senate without any further efforts to fulfill the Senate’s obligation to the American public during a healthcare and economic crisis demonstrates an unconscionable failure of leadership. Congress acted swiftly in March as the pandemic took hold and every American who put their lives on hold and stayed home for weeks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 did so out of a patriotic duty and a belief that it would give our government leaders time to implement a plan to get this virus under control.

“Now, it’s been five months and not only do we still have no national strategy, our nation is facing some of the highest rates of coronavirus spread in the world, over 167,000 Americans dead, unprecedented housing and eviction crises on the horizon, and we are slowly coming out of the worst economy since the Great Depression and the highest level of unemployment ever recorded.

“The House of Representatives passed a relief bill on May 15th – three months ago – because it was clear even then that this virus would be with us longer than we had hoped and that more support to American businesses and American citizens would be needed to save lives and save livelihoods. Sadly, however, instead of using this legislation as a framework for a bipartisan relief package, Mitch McConnell buried it in his office and sat on his hands, letting vital programs expire without even participating in efforts to reach agreement. 

“His decision to send the Senate home for the next three weeks is an insult to every sacrifice made, every job lost, every small business that has had to close its doors, every person who had to say their final goodbye to a loved one over Facetime, and every graduation or wedding or birth celebrated over Zoom instead of in person. The American people have done their duty, and today Mitch McConnell has thrown in the towel and given up on doing his.”

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