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Opinion | If the Albritton lottery bill is so popular, why all of the lies?

Josh Moon

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Del Marsh and Greg Albritton seem to have a serious problem with the truth.

Basically, the two Republican senators don’t know what it is.

In the ongoing debate over bills that would allow Alabamians to vote on lottery games, Marsh and Albritton have told some real doozies in their efforts to push through a bill that would sell out Alabama citizens in favor of aiding the Poarch Creek Indians.

And I don’t mean small lies.

Big ones. Whoppers, you might call ‘em.

Like when Marsh, the Senate Pro Tem, told reporters last week that he was going to bring Albritton’s bill up for a vote in the Senate Tourism Committee that Marsh chairs, because there was a consensus among Senate Republicans that Albritton’s bill was favored. He also plans to kill a lottery bill sponsored by Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, that would bring in billions of dollars more for the state, but that would create gaming competition for the Poarch Creeks.

In saying what he did, Marsh made it seem as though he killed the McClendon bill because it stood no chance of passing, and that the majority of the Senate favors the Albritton “simpler” bill.

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But according to multiple Republican senators who attended recent caucus meetings, that’s far from true. In fact, those senators told APR that there was no favorite lottery bill and that they wanted to pass both bills out of committee so that each could be debated properly on the floor.

Sources told APR that the reason Marsh is killing the McClendon bill actually has zero to do with good governance or the will of the voters, but is instead retaliation for McClendon listening to his constituents and voting against the gas tax bill a few weeks ago.

“Marsh was mad about that (vote) and he ain’t letting it go,” said a source familiar with the behind-the-scenes negotiations. “McClendon believed he had this whole thing sorted out with (Marsh) beforehand and everyone was on the same page, but that apparently wasn’t the case.”

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The truth is there is very little support for Albritton’s “paper lottery” bill, because most lawmakers see it for what it is — a gift to the Poarch Creeks that would generate a relatively small amount of money overall for Alabama while ensuring the tribe maintains its gaming monopoly.

I wrote an extensive breakdown of the two bills here last week, but the summation is this: Under the Albritton bill, Alabama would make roughly $150 million per year without a penny going to education or scholarship programs. Under the McClendon bill, which would offer the same amount of gambling, the state would make roughly $500 million per year and much of that would go towards education. McClendon’s bill would also generate roughly 10,000-13,000 new jobs, while Albritton’s bill would eliminate 3,000-plus jobs.

These are not my opinions. The numbers came from economic impact studies.

It is also not my opinion that Albritton’s bill would provide the Poarch Creeks with the right to operate additional games — specifically, video lottery terminals — on their tribal lands. The exact same scenario has played in other states.

Surprisingly, Greg Albritton was aware of this fact, and actually told the truth about it during a recent radio interview on Jeff Poor’s show in Huntsville. After telling people that PCI would get expanded gaming and “other games,” Albritton stopped telling the truth — either because he didn’t dare say it out loud or because he simply didn’t know it.

Albritton, in defending the fact that his bill would give the Poarch Creeks more gaming while shutting down dog tracks around the state that pay in millions in taxes every year, said that the games offered by PCI would “only be at their casinos” and wouldn’t expand, and that they would all be regulated by the federal government.

This is where I sigh loudly.

PCI currently has 16,000 acres around Alabama that it has applied to take into trust. If that is approved, the tribe has the right under federal law to open a casino on any of that land.

In addition, the state would mostly be responsible for regulating any Class III games that are operated at Poarch Creek casinos, along with the tribe. That’s why the feds require that the state enter into a compact with the tribe — so a regulation plan might be put into place. The National Indian Gaming Commission, which regulates Class II games, only regulates Class III games to ensure compliance with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, not to ensure fairness and safe practices.

But why would the guy sponsoring the gambling bill know any of that, right?

Look, you can allow Marsh and Albritton to feed you garbage if you like, but here’s the truth: Under this Albritton plan, the state of Alabama will lose $350 million in tax revenues every year; we will lose 16,000 jobs in the next two years, we will have one of the worst lotteries known to man. In addition, the Poarch Creeks will expand their tax-free empire, ensuring that we have MORE gambling than what is offered under the McClendon bill.

And deep down, you know this is true. You can feel it — that icky, something-ain’t-right feeling about this Albritton bill.

They’re pushing too hard. They can’t explain why. There are too many obvious holes.

And way too many lies.

 

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Economy

Likely Republican primary voters reject Poarch Creeks “winning” plan

Bill Britt

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A survey of likely Republican primary voters obtained by APR shows that a majority do not support giving the Poarch Band of Creek Indians a monopoly over gaming in the state despite the tribe’s promise of a billion dollars.

Over the last several months, PCI has orchestrated a massive media blitz to convince Alabamians that they have a winning plan for the state’s future in exchange for a Tribal-State compact and exclusive rights to Vegas-style casino gaming.

The survey commissioned by the Republican House and Senate caucuses and conducted by CYGNAL, a highly respected Republican polling firm, found that only 34.1 percent of likely Republican primary voters are buying what the tribe is selling. On the contrary, nearly 50 percent of Republicans oppose the plan, with almost 40 percent voicing strong opposition.

Of those surveyed, females are against the plan by nearly 50 percent, with men weighing-in at almost 60 percent unfavorable to PCI’s proposal.

Perhaps most significant is that PCI’s monopoly plan was widely rejected in areas where the tribe already operates casinos. In the Mobile area, nearest Windcreek Atmore, over half of Republicans see a monopoly unfavorably. The same is true in the Montgomery area, where PCI has two gaming facilities.

Not a single big city surveyed in the state held a favorable view of PCI’s plan with Birmingham and Huntsville rejecting the tribal monopoly by almost 50 percent.

Very conservative, somewhat conservative and moderate voters didn’t view the plan as positive.

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Ninety-one percent of respondents said they defiantly would be voting in the upcoming Republican primary on March 3.

PCI has lavished money on media outlets throughout the state, garnering favorable coverage, especially on talk radio and internet outlets. The tribe has also spent freely on Republican lawmakers.

Perhaps some good news for PCI is that Republican primary voters believe that state legislators are more likely to represent special interests above the interests of their constituents.

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PCI lobbyists continue to push the tribe’s agenda at the State House in defiance of Gov. Kay Ivey’s call for no action on gaming until her study group returns its findings.

The survey found that Ivey enjoys a 76.3 percent favorability rating among likely Republican primary voters.

 

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Economy

ADECA names Elaine J. Fincannon as new deputy director

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Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs Director Kenneth Boswell announced on Thursday that Elaine J. Fincannon has been appointed as the agency’s deputy director.

Fincannon most recently served as Senior Vice President for Investor Relations for the Business Council of Alabama. She worked with BCA for over 25 years as part of its senior team, working with a diverse range of business leaders and CEOs of Alabama’s largest employers. During that time, she also served as BCA’s liaison to Alabama’s trade associations and to the more than 100 chambers of commerce throughout the state. She also served on the President’s Committee and Corporate Partners Committee for the Alabama Automotive Manufacturer’s Association and was a part of the Alabama Aerospace Industry Association’s membership committee.

“Elaine Fincannon’s extensive knowledge and experience with the public and private sector in our state made her an ideal choice to be ADECA’s new deputy director, and I am pleased that she has decided to bring those talents to the agency,” ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell said. “Elaine is mission-focused, forward-thinking and detailed-oriented, which are the exact skills needed to serve as deputy director of ADECA. She and I will work closely together to continue supporting Gov. Ivey’s mission of improving the lives of all Alabamians.”

Fincannon is an active member of the community, serving as a member of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, the Junior League of Montgomery, the Montgomery Humane Society, Auburn University Montgomery Alumni Association and other volunteer efforts. She also served as a member of the American Society of Association Executives and was an officer of the Association of State Chamber Professionals. She has a bachelor’s degree of science from AUM and was honored with a Distinguished Chamber Professional Award in 2019 by the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama.

Fincannon joins ADECA with a focus on working with Boswell to meet the agency’s mission to strengthen and support local communities.

“It is an honor to join ADECA during this time, and I am grateful to Director Boswell and Gov. Ivey for this appointment,” Fincannon said. “I plan to work diligently to serve the people of Alabama to the absolute best of my ability.”

 

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Alabama Workforce Council delivers annual report touting improved career pathways

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The Alabama Workforce Council (AWC) recently delivered its Annual Report to Gov. Kay Ivey and members of the legislature. The report highlights the many and varied workforce successes from 2019. It also outlines policy recommendations to further solidify Alabama as a leader in workforce development and push the state closer to Ivey’s goal of adding 500,000 credentialed workers to the state’s workforce by 2025.

Gov. Ivey acknowledged the recent progress stating, “the continued efforts of the AWC and the various state agency partners in transforming our workforce are substantial. Significant work has been accomplished to ensure all Alabamians have a strong start and strong finish. We will continue to bolster our state’s economy through dynamic workforce development solutions to help us reach our ambitious goal.”

The AWC, formed in 2015, was created as an employer-led, statewide effort to understand the structure, function, organization and perception of the Alabama workforce system. The goal of the AWC is to facilitate collaboration between government and industry to help Alabama develop a sustainable workforce that is competitive on a global scale. 

“This report details the tremendous efforts of the dedicated AWC members and their partners who have greatly contributed to the progress of building a highly-skilled workforce.” noted Tim McCartney, Chairman of the AWC. “To meet ever-growing job needs of an expanding economy, we have put forth recommendations to bring working-age Alabamians sitting on the sidelines back into the workforce to address our low workforce participation rate.”

Included among the many highlights from the report are:

  • Created the Alabama Office of Apprenticeship to support apprenticeships and work-based learning statewide.
  • Established the Alabama Committee on Credentialing & Career Pathways (ACCCP) to identify credentials of value that align with in-demand career pathways across Alabama.
  • Furthered foundational work toward cross-agency outcome sharing through the Alabama Terminal on Linking and Analyzing Statistics (ATLAS).
  • Commissioned statewide surveys to better understand the characteristics, and potential barriers, of the priority population groups (during record-low unemployment) identified as likely to enter or re-enter the state’s workforce. 
  • Provided technical assistance, support staff and grant writing services to a cohort of over 30 nonprofits from across the state enabling them to expand services and directly connect more Alabamians to training and economic opportunity. Services helped cohort members secure over $6.4 million in grant money through various out-of-state grant programs.
  • Identified and evaluated 17 population segments of potential workers and determined the likelihood of adding members of those respective population segments into the workforce. Within this process, issues affecting the state’s labor participation rate were also detailed. 

Vice-Chair of the AWC Sandra Koblas of Austal USA commented, “the energy around workforce development in Alabama right now is incredibly exciting. We are working together with businesses, nonprofits and agency partners to reduce barriers, increase opportunities and grow the state’s overall economy.”

The full report can be viewed here.

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To learn more about the Alabama Workforce Council please visit: www.alabamaworks.com/alabama-workforce-council

 

 

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Economy

Shelby announces $733,150 ARC POWER Grant for Opportunity Alabama

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U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, R-Ala., Wednesday announced that Opportunity Alabama, Inc., a nonprofit initiative in Birmingham, Alabama, is the recipient of a $733,150 Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) POWER grant.  This grant will fund the Creating Opportunity for Alabama (COAL) Initiative.

“ARC’s decision to award this funding to Opportunity Alabama will help significantly boost private investment and business development throughout our state’s coal-impacted communities,” said Senator Shelby.  “I am proud this nonprofit initiative is working to help our local communities understand and capitalize on Opportunity Zones.  These federal funds will facilitate an improved quality of life in Appalachian Alabama, creating hundreds of jobs and dozens of new businesses.”

“Opportunity Zones, and the private investment they incentivize, are helping uplift communities throughout the Appalachian Region,” said ARC Federal Co-Chairman Tim Thomas.  “Opportunity Alabama is working to ensure communities understand and are able to capitalize on this program to improve Appalachian Alabama, and this POWER investment will have a big impact on that mission.”

 The project will create an investment funding and business development ecosystem targeted to the federally designated Opportunity Zones in 36 coal-impacted counties in Alabama.  As a result of the ARC grant, Opportunity Alabama will work with a team of local, state, and national partners in a three-phased approach.  The first phase will work on building a local capacity to effectively prepare for and attract Opportunity Zone investments, focusing particularly on rural communities.  The second phase will create a pipeline of investment opportunities to attract substantial private investment by facilitating demand studies, environmental assessments, and construction cost estimates.  The third and final phase will focus on developing and implementing an impact-investment data collection and analysis process to make it easier for investors to deploy their capital.

This project will yield 250 new jobs, create 25 new businesses, and leverage $100 million in private investment.  In addition to the federal grant provided for the project, Alabama Power and the Alabama Power Foundation are expected to provide private financial support.

Opportunity Alabama is a nonprofit initiative dedicated to connecting investors with investable assets in Alabama’s Opportunity Zones.

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