State Reps. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, and A.J. McCampbell, D-Demopolis, held a public hearing Wednesday to promote their local constitutional amendments legalizing electronic bingo in Macon and Greene counties.
Warren’s bill is House Bill 422, while McCampbell’s is HB545.
“This is an issue that are very important for the Alabama Democratic Caucus and the Black Caucus,” McCampbell said.
“We just passed a bill regarding the abortion bill,” McCampbell said. “They said that people had the right to vote. When our vote is cast, our votes have to count.”
McCampbell said the people of his county voted on a bill in 2003 that made bingo legal. He insisted that his voters knew that they were voting on electronic bingo then.
McCampbell said while he had some issues with the lottery bill, he thinks the lottery bill is a great bill because it gives the constituents an opportunity to express what they would like to see happen in the state of Alabama.
“Give the people the right to vote,” McCampbell said. “Lets quit playing the political game.”
“In 2003, there were two constitutional amendments that let the people vote on bingo bills,” McCampbell said. “Both were passed overwhelmingly.”
McCampbell said those amendments have been violated constantly.
“We all want to find creative and bipartisan revenue that pays for a higher standard of education, transportation and overall quality of life for all Alabama, however, we need to ensure that we’re doing this in the right way – a way that doesn’t trample on the legal rights and economic survival of citizens,” Warren said. “House Bill 422 would protect the economic engine of Macon County and the families and businesses that depend on it.”
Warren said to pass the two local constitutional amendments, they need 63 votes.
“There is a lot of opposition going on,” Warren said. “It is very disturbing when I see who the lobbyists are.”
Warren said passage would bring revenue into the state. Before Victoryland was closed, it contributed $45 million to the general fund.
“We can help the state of Alabama if we are allowed to go forward,” Warren said.
Warren said when they were operating, the same people would visit Greene County, Macon County and the Poarch Creek Indian, and they had a good time.
“The competition was what was really making the money as people go place to place,” he said.
Presently, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians are the last remaining legal operators of electronic bingo games.
“Everybody needs competition,” McCampbell said. “The Native-Americans have all sort of gaming facilities. They are making money, but they are not contributing as a body to the state of Alabama.”
“The state of Alabama is in needs of funds,” McCampbell said. “We have got to pay for a prison system. The infrastructure bill that we passed will help infrastructure, but we have other needs.”
McCampbell said before Greenetrack opened, Greene County was 66 out of 67 counties in per capita income.
“We moved up to number 31,” McCampbell said. “We had people making $26 an hour. Custodial people were making $17 an hour.”
After former Gov. Bob Riley’s gambling task force and state Supreme Court decisions defining bingo as a game played on paper cards, Greenetrack’s business plummeted.
“We moved up, and now we are back to number 66,” McCampbell said.
“And we are 67,” Warren said referring to Macon County.
“It is time for us to sit down around a table and come to a compromise,” Warren said.
“The only way [the lottery bill] is going to pass is with Democrat votes,” Warren said. “I am not giving support to anybody else’s bill, if they don’t support my bill.”
New unemployment claims continued dropping last week
There were 8,679 new unemployment claims filed in Alabama last week, slightly fewer than the 8,848 filed the previous week, according to the Alabama Department of Labor.
Of the claims filed between Sept. 13 and Sept. 19, 4,465, or 51 percent, were related to COVID-19. That’s the same percentage as the previous week.
Unemployment benefits could change for some Alabamians
ADOL will begin the review when the current quarter ends on Oct. 3.
Some Alabamians receiving unemployment benefits could see changes in those benefits after the Alabama Department of Labor conducts a required quarterly review and redetermines eligibility, the department said Friday.
The Alabama Department of Labor said in a press release Friday that no action is required by those receiving regular unemployment, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation.
ADOL will begin the review when the current quarter ends on Oct. 3.
“Some may remain eligible for PUA or PEUC, OR they may be required to change to regular unemployment compensation. Weekly benefit amounts may also change. This depends on eligibility requirements,” ADOL said in the release. “Those claimants whose benefit year ends prior to October 3, 2020, will have their claims reevaluated.”
After the review, if the claimant is determined not to be eligible for regular unemployment compensation, those who qualify may still be able to be paid under PUA or PEUC, and that determination will be made automatically and payment will be issued, the department said in the release.
Claimants must also continue to certify their weeks.
Many claimants are not receiving benefits because they fail to file their weekly certifications, i.e. requests for payment. ADOL cannot pay benefits for weeks that have not been properly certified. Certifications can be done online at labor.alabama.gov or by calling the appropriate number:
- Montgomery – (334) 954-4094
- Birmingham – (205) 458-2282
- Not in Local Area – (800) 752-7389
PUA recipients must file their weekly certifications either by telephone or on the PUA app, at pua.labor.alabama.gov.
Alabama Gulf Coast beaches remain closed for now
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced that beaches will remain closed for now due to ongoing repair and cleanup efforts in the wake of Hurricane Sally.
“Working closely with Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft and Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon, as well as Commissioner Billy Joe Underwood, the governor has agreed to keep Baldwin County’s beaches closed until Friday, October 2nd,” the governor’s office said in a statement. “This will allow those communities additional time to get their beaches ready for public enjoyment in a safe, responsible manner.”
Mobile County beaches might open earlier than that.
“Likewise, the governor has been in touch with Mayor Jeff Collier, and she is prepared to amend the beach closure order for Mobile County when he signals that Dauphin Island is ready to reopen their beaches,” the governor’s office said in a statement. “At the present time, all Alabama beaches remain closed until further notice.”
Hurricane Sally came ashore near Gulf Shores on Sept. 16 as a category two hurricane with 105 mile per hour winds. Numerous homes, businesses and farms have been destroyed and many more have seen serious damage.
“As of Wednesday night, approx. 37,000 cubic yards of Hurricane Sally debris (equivalent to roughly 1,700 truck loads worth) has been picked up in Orange Beach since Sunday (4 days),” the city of Orange Beach announced. “Kudos to our debris contractor CrowderGulf.”
“I spent Sunday afternoon meeting with senior staff and I believe we will need some time to get our buildings safe for children to return,” said Baldwin County Schools Superintendent Eddie Taylor in a letter to parents. “We live in a very large county. Power may be on in your area and your school may not have any damage, but we cannot open schools unless all schools can open. Our pacing guides, state testing, meal and accountability requirements are based on the system, not individual schools.”
“We have schools without power and for which we do not expect power until later this week,” Taylor said. “In this new age, we need internet and communications which are currently down so we cannot run any system tests. We have physical damage at our schools including some with standing water, collapsed ceilings and blown out windows. We have debris on our properties and debris blocking our transportation teams from picking up students. All of this must be resolved before we can successfully re-open.”
“If everything goes as planned, I expect we will welcome back students on Wednesday, September 30,” Taylor said. “Prior to returning students to school, we will hold two teacher work days to get our classrooms and our lessons plans back on track.”
SNAP replacement benefits coming to three counties hit by Hurricane Sally
Thousands of SNAP recipients in Mobile, Baldwin and Escambia counties are set to receive automatic replacement benefits as a result of Hurricane Sally, the Alabama Department of Human Resources announced Thursday.
Recipients who received their benefits Sept. 1 through Sept. 16 will receive a replacement of 50 percent of their regular monthly benefit. Those who received supplemental pandemic maximum allotment payments will receive a replacement of 30 percent of those benefits.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service approved the replacement benefits today at the request of DHR. The benefits are intended to replace food purchased with SNAP that was lost to widespread power outages caused when Hurricane Sally made landfall on Sept. 16.
“Our priority is to remove the very real threat of hunger for the many Alabamians who are struggling from the devastation of Hurricane Sally,” said Alabama DHR Commissioner Nancy Buckner. “The first step toward that goal is to replace the food that so many Alabamians lost to the storm. We are actively working to obtain additional resources to provide much-needed relief for the region as it recovers.”
Hurricane Sally caused over 265,000 households to lose power for at least four hours in Mobile, Baldwin and Escambia counties, where approximately 54,000 households will receive SNAP benefits totaling an estimated $8.5 million.
Those recipients should expect to see the replacement benefits automatically loaded onto their EBT cards next week.
The Food Assistance Division of DHR administers the SNAP program in Alabama.
More information about the program can be found at dhr.alabama.gov/food-assistance.