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Gov. Ivey names members of study group on gaming, lottery

Eddie Burkhalter

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Gov. Kay Ivey on Friday announced the members of a panel she’s ordered to study how much revenue the state could bring in from an expansion of gaming and a state lottery.  

Ivey said in her State of the State address that before she’ll consider the Poarch Band of Creek Indian’s proposal to expand gaming she wants to know how much the state stands to make in tax revenue from the deal. She’s also asked that lawmakers estimate how much a state lottery would generate. 

“I am committed to, once and for all, getting the facts so that the people of Alabama can make an informed decision on what has been a hotly debated topic for many years,” Ivey said in a statement Friday. “Without a doubt, there will be ramifications if we eventually expand gaming options in our state just as there are costs associated with doing nothing.

 “Every so often, this issue resurfaces through a new form of legislation. By my estimation, we’ve had more than 180 bills regarding a lottery or expanded gaming since the late 1990s.

 “I’m extremely grateful that some of our most distinguished citizens – from a diverse background including all regions of our state – have agreed to help gather this information. The specific data they gather will hopefully lead us all to making a better, more informed decision.

 “Ultimately, I believe the final say belongs to the people of Alabama. As their governor, I want them to be fully informed of all the facts so that, together, we can make the best decision possible.”

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According to Ivey’s executive order the study group is to submit a final report no later than December 31. 

The membership of the Study Group on Gambling Policy includes:

  • Todd Strange (Chair) of Montgomery is the former mayor of Montgomery. Prior to his tenure as mayor, he served as chairman of the Montgomery County Commission, former president, CEO and co-owner of Blount Strange Automotive group, and former director of the Alabama Development Office (the Alabama Department of Commerce).
  • A.R. “Rey” Almodóvar of Huntsville is the co-founder and Chief Executive officer of INTUITIVE®. Mr. Almodóvar is a licensed professional engineer (P.E.) and holds a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Puerto Rico, M.S. in Engineering from the University of Arkansas, and M.S. in Business Administration from Texas A&M University. He is a graduate of Leadership Alabama Class XXVI.
  • Dr. Deborah Barnhart of Huntsville is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Emerita of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville. Previously serving as the Center’s CEO and Executive Director, her career spans four decades of service in commercial industry, government, aerospace and defense. A retired Navy Captain, she was one of the first ten women assigned to duty aboard ships and commanded five units in her 26-year career. She has received an undergraduate degree from University of Alabama at Huntsville and Master of Business Administration from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Sloan School of Management and the University of Maryland College Park as well as a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University.
  • Walter Bell of Mobile is the past Chairman of Swiss Re, one of the world’s largest reinsurers. Prior to his time in the private sector, he served as the Alabama Commissioner of Insurance. He launched the Mobile County Urban League in 1978 and is a member of the Alabama Academy of Honor for his achievement in civil rights, civic leadership and business.
  • Dr. Regina Benjamin of Mobile is a physician who served as the 18th Surgeon General of the United States. Prior to her service to our country, she was the former president of the Alabama Medical Association and provided health care to a medically underserved community by founding the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic. She received a B.S. from Xavier University of Louisiana and a M.D. from the University of Alabama.  
  • Young Boozer of Montgomery currently serves as the Assistant Superintendent of Banking at the Alabama State Banking Department.  He is the former Treasurer for the state of Alabama and has extensive experience with numerous banking institutions such as Citibank, Crocker National Bank, and Colonial Bank. Boozer received his B.S. in Economics from Stanford University and a M.S. in Finance from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Sam Cochran of Mobile has been the Sheriff of Mobile County since 2006. He began his law enforcement career with the Mobile Police Department where he spent 31 years working his way through the ranks – serving his last 10 years as Chief of Police. Sheriff Cochran serves the community on numerous agency boards, including the Penelope House, Drug Education Council, Boy Scouts of America, and the Child Advocacy Center.
  • Elizabeth “Liz” Huntley of Birmingham is a litigation attorney at Lightfoot, Franklin & White LLC. After rising from an unimaginable childhood, she has become a nationally recognized child advocate and serves on numerous boards including the Alabama School Readiness Alliance, the Children’s Village Board of Directors, and the Auburn University Board of Trustees. 
  • Carl Jamison of Tuscaloosa is a third-generation Shareholder in JamisonMoneyFarmerPC, one of the largest and oldest public accounting firms in the state of Alabama. He primarily works in the areas of tax planning and audit services to clients in the manufacturing, medical, retail, construction, and professional services industries. He received a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the University of Alabama and is a Certified Public Accountant.
  • Justice James “Jim” Main of Montgomery is a former Justice on the Supreme Court of Alabama as well as previously served as a Judge on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. Along with his 30+ year in private legal practice, he served as Finance Director and policy advisor to Governor Bob Riley as well as Legal Advisor to Governor Fob James.
  • Phillip “Phil” Rawls of Pike Road currently serves as a Lecturer of Journalism for Auburn University. His spent over 35 years working for The Associated Press. His respected career in journalism spanned every Alabama governor from George Wallace to Robert Bentley where he extensively covered government and politics.

    Bishop B. Mike Watson
    of Birmingham is the Bishop in residence at Canterbury United Methodist Church in Birmingham and is currently serving as the Ecumenical Officer of the Council of Bishops. He has served as a minister in Dothan and Mobile. In addition to his work in the ministry, he is a past president of the Mobile County School Board, which is the largest school system in Alabama. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in finance and real estate from The University of Alabama, a Master of Divinity degree from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Vanderbilt University. 

Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon’s office told APR this week that McCutcheon will be working with Ivey in her efforts, but other legislators have signaled a desire to continue to work on lottery and gaming legislation despite Ivey’s call to slow down. 

APR reported that a day after Ivey’s speech Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh met with representatives of the Poarch Creek Band of Indians and two of the state’s dog tracks and discussed a proposed lottery and gaming bill.

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The Poarch Creeks continue to push a plan they say would generate $1 billion for the state in the first year, and $350 million every year if the state were to codify under the law its gaming monopoly and allow for an expansion of its casinos to include Birmingham and another location in North Alabama.

 

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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Education

Alabama Education Association, Board of Medical Examiners meet over excuses to break COVID-19 quarantines

Prior to the meeting, the AEA on Nov. 5 threatened legal action against the board over the matter. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Officials with the Alabama Education Association and the Alabama State Board of Medical Examiners met on Thursday to discuss a concern the association has with doctors who write excuses to allow students to return to school before their mandated COVID-19 quarantine periods expire.

At the meeting between Theron Stokes, associate executive director of the Alabama Education Association, and William Perkins, executive director of the Alabama State Board of Medical Examiners, Stokes learned that the board wasn’t aware of the problem, the AEA said in a press release. 

“Both groups agreed to set up a meeting with educational and medical organizations on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in Alabama,” the AEA said in the release. “A meeting should be held before the end of the year and will allow the AEA and the Board of Medical Examiners, as well as other educational and medical organizations, to review existing guidelines issued by the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and ensure conformity in following those guidelines.” 

In a letter to Perkins on Thursday, Stokes wrote that it was AEA’s understanding that the board was aware of the problem, but he wrote that during their meeting he became aware that neither the board nor Perkins was aware of the problem. 

“It was not the intent of AEA to cause any unnecessary problems for you, the doctors you represent, or your organization regarding this matter,” Stokes wrote. 

Prior to the meeting, the AEA on Nov. 5 threatened legal action against the board over the matter. 

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“It is our firm belief that there exists no medical scenario under which these students could be written out of quarantine and that to do so is violative of ADPH and CDC quarantine recommendations,” Stokes wrote in the Nov. 5 letter. 

Stokes in his recent letter notes that both agreed in the meeting to bring together representatives of the other organizations to come up with a uniform procedure for following state and federal guidelines. 

“I agree with your plan to conduct this meeting and finalize our goals before the holidays,” Stokes wrote.

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Legislature

Caravan to honor the life of longtime State Rep. Alvin Holmes

The caravan is being organized by community activists Ja’Mel Brown and William Boyd.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

There is a car ride caravan honoring the life and service of Rep. Alvin Holmes in Montgomery at 2 p.m. Monday. The caravan is being organized by community activists Ja’Mel Brown and William Boyd.

On Saturday, Holmes passed away at age 81. He was born in 1939 into a very segregated Montgomery and spent his life battling in favor of civil rights causes. He was one of the first Black state representatives to serve in the Alabama Legislature after implementation of the Voting Rights Act.

There had been Black legislators during Reconstruction in the 1870s, but Jim Crow segregation during much of the 20th Century had effectively disenfranchised millions of Black Alabamians for generations.

Holmes served in the Alabama House of Representatives, representing House District 78 from 1974 to 2018. Holmes participated in the civil rights movement. He was a professor and a real estate broker.

The chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, State Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, released a statement mourning Holmes’s passing.

“Representative Alvin Holmes was a great Democrat and a fighter,” England said. “He stood on the frontlines of the fight for civil rights and was willing to sacrifice everything in his fight for justice for all. He not only had a long and distinguished career as a civil rights leader, but also as a member of the Legislature, serving his constituents faithfully and dutifully for 44 years. Alabama has lost a giant, whose wit, intelligence, fearlessness, selfless determination, and leadership will be sorely missed. My prayers are with his friends, family, and colleagues.”

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State Rep. Kirk Hatcher, D-Montgomery, fondly remembered Holmes, whom he defeated in the 2018 Democratic primary.

“Today we lost a dedicated warrior for social justice. Representative Alvin Holmes was a true public servant,” Hatcher said. “What an amazing legacy he has left us! He could always be seen waging the good fight for equality in all aspects of state government and beyond. His public service is legendary and without peer.”

“In recent years, I am profoundly grateful for the grace he showed me in his willingness to share with me his blueprint for effectively serving our people—and by extension the larger community,” Hatcher said. “Today, my fervent prayers are with his beloved daughter Veronica, her precious mom (and his best friend), as well as other cherished members of his family and friends as they mourn his passing. I humbly join the many voices who offer a sincere ‘Thank You’ to Mr. Alvin Holmes for his dedicated service to our Montgomery community and our state. ‘May angels sing thee to thy rest.’”

State Rep. Tashina Morris, D-Montgomery, also fondly remembered Holmes.

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“Sending Prayers to The Holmes family,” Morris said. “Alvin Holmes was the epitome of greatness working for his people!! May you Rest Well !!!”

Republican insider and former State Rep. Perry Hooper Jr. also served with Holmes in the Alabama House of Representatives and the Montgomery legislative delegation.

“I served with Alvin for 20 years in the Alabama Legislature,” Hooper said. “We often disagreed on the issues, but even after a heated floor debate, we could shake hands at the end of the day. I always considered him a friend. He loved Montgomery and he was a great representative of his district and its issues. He was always willing to go the extra mile for one of his constituents. When I served as Chairman of the Contract Review Committee, he was one of the committee’s most conscientious members. He was always questioning contracts so he could be assured that the contract represented a good use of taxpayer’s dollars which as Chairman I greatly appreciated. He was one of a kind pioneer in the Alabama Legislature and will be sorely missed.”

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill served with Holmes in the Alabama House of Representatives prior to his election as secretary of state.

“I just learned that former State Rep. Alvin Holmes passed away today,” Merrill said on social media. “I enjoyed the privilege of serving with him from 2010-14. There was never a dull moment whenever he was in the Chamber. I appreciated him for his candor & for his desire to work on behalf of his constituents!”

Holmes was a member of the Hutchinson Missionary Baptist Church, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Montgomery Improvement Association, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Alabama Southern Christian Leadership Conference Board, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He has one daughter, Veronica.

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News

SOS Merrill back in hot water over social media interactions

This is not the first time that Merrill has come under fire for the way he handles his social media accounts.

Josh Moon

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Secretary of State John Merrill

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill and his social media accounts are back in the news — this time because of a series of childish arguments and insults that found their way into the public domain. 

Over the last two weeks, screenshots of exchanges between Merrill and various Alabama residents have shown Merrill telling people that they are “an embarrassment” and “a disgrace,” and encouraging one man to “get a sex change operation” so he could become who he was “intended to be.”

Merrill told al.com on Sunday that he regretted the exchanges. Speaking specifically about the message in which he encouraged the sex change operation, Merrill said it wasn’t productive and that he should have deleted the original message from the sender and moved on. 

The sender was a Huntsville resident named Michael Richard, who admitted to al.com that he was trolling Merrill with his private Facebook messages. 

Regardless of trolling, however, Merrill’s recommendation was both offensive and degrading, and it will undoubtedly draw the ire of many civil rights groups around the state and country.

Richard said his initial messages to Merrill were in response to Merrill retweeting a selectively edited video showing a white man being hit in the head during a protest and a message claiming there is a “war on whites.” Merrill also retweeted a message that referenced white people fighting back. 

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The full video of the incident shared by Merrill shows the white man kicking another person before being hit. 

A number of progressive groups around the state took issue with Merrill’s retweet and called on him to apologize and take it down. In response, Merrill went on a mini-media tour, giving a number of interviews about the incident and claiming that his First Amendment rights were being threatened. 

Richard admitted that he capitalized on what was clearly a sensitive issue for Merrill, sending him a Facebook private message saying, “You’re an embarrassment to this state.”

Merrill responded by telling Richard that he was a “liberal racist,” and things got way worse from there. 

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The exchange with Richard, however, was not the only one for Merrill in the last few days. Two other Facebook exchanges were also posted online — one with Michael Ledbetter, who Merrill tells to move and mind his own business, and Amy Styles, who Merrill calls “karen.”

This is also not the first time that Merrill has come under fire for the way he handles his social media accounts. He’s currently being sued in federal court for blocking some citizens.

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Congress

Sewell votes in favor of National Apprenticeship Act

The bill would invest more than $3.5 billion to create nearly one million new apprenticeship opportunities.

Brandon Moseley

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Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Alabama

Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, last week voted in favor of the National Apprenticeship Act, legislation to reauthorize the National Apprenticeship Act for the first time since its enactment in 1937.

The new National Apprenticeship Act will create one million new apprenticeship opportunities over the next five years. Registered apprenticeships provide workers with paid, on-the-job training, and are the nation’s most successful federal workforce training program.

“As a long-time supporter of expanding registered apprenticeships, I am thrilled to support today’s legislation to provide 1 million new apprenticeship opportunities over five years,” Sewell said. “Our Nation is facing the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and estimates show that more than 7 million of the pandemic’s job losses will be permanent. We need bold investments like those in the National Apprenticeship Act to accelerate the economy and help get the American people back to work in stable, good-paying jobs of the future.”

The bill invests more than $3.5 billion over the next five years.

The act establishes a $400 million grant program to support the expansion of apprenticeship opportunities, including pre-apprenticeships and youth apprenticeships, which will increase $100 million annually to reach $800 million by 2025.

The legislation also codifies and streamlines standards for registered apprenticeship, youth apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs to make it easier for both apprentices and employers to participate in high-quality apprenticeships and codifies the Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship.

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It directs the office to convene industry leaders, labor organizations, educators and others to expand apprenticeships into new occupations and sectors.

Supporters say the bill could yield $10.6 billion in net benefits to U.S. taxpayers in the form of increased tax revenue and decreased spending on public-assistance programs and unemployment insurance, and that nothing is more effective at breaking the cycle of poverty than a well-paying full-time job.

Sewell is about to enter her sixth term representing Alabama’s 7th Congressional District.

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