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Governor’s gaming study group meets for the first time

Brandon Moseley

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The governor’s study group on gambling met in the Alabama Statehouse for the first time Thursday.

Former Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange chairs the group.

The Governor’s Deputy Counsel Erica McKay said that the group has been tasked with gathering accurate data so that the governor and other citizens can make an informed decision on how to proceed.

The last time that the people of Alabama voted on a gambling proposal was 1999 when they rejected Gov. Don Siegelman’s controversial lottery proposal. Since that time, state legislators have introduced 180 different gambling bills that have failed in the legislative process.

McKay said that the purpose of the task force “is simply to gather the facts so that the people of Alabama can make an informed decision.”

Will Parker, the governor’s general counsel, gave a lengthy presentation on how Alabama regulates gambling and how the Poarch Creek Indians operate in our state.

“I am a lawyer. I am not an expert in this area,” Parker said. “No one expects you to be experts, certainly not at this stage.”

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Parker said that Section 65 of the 1901 Constitution restricts the authority of the legislature to establish games of chance. This was done in order “to address sources of human misery.”

Over the years, exceptions have been made to this by constitutional amendment.

“Horse and dog racing is one area where the legislature has set up through statutes,” exceptions to that prohibition, Parker said.

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Horse or dog racing is allowed in four counties: Greene, Jefferson, Macon, and Mobile.

“NCAA brackets is an area the legislature has not addressed,” Parker said. Bonafide amusement devices were allowed in the 1980s, “Chucky Cheese Law.” These are devices where there is a prize and an element of chance that seem like gambling devices but are actually skill-based games. For example, devices where you have a claw and you try to get a stuffed animal. The Chucky Cheese Law passed in 1986 makes it clear that those machines are allowed.

Daily fantasy sports were allowed under legislation passed in 2019. This is the idea that you can go online and pick some NFL players and see how they do.

If your team does well you win a prize. “That is my understanding. I have not actually played fantasy sports myself,” Parker said.

“Beginning in the 1980s, seventeen counties have persuaded the legislature to pass local constitutional amendments saying that bingo is allowed there,” Parker said. “Each of them are different.”

There is no bingo in Tuscaloosa County, but in these 17 counties, bingo is allowed.

“Certain operators have tested the limit,” Parker said.

In the members’ packet were pictures of “electronic bingo machines” that were seized in 2017 by the state.

“The operators would argue that is bingo,” Parker explained. “I have never played one before, but it is my understanding that these machines play very much like a slot machine.”

“Eighteen cases have been decided, many of them on the bingo issue, and each time the Alabama Supreme Court has decided that the machines are not bingo,” Parker explained. The Cornerstone test was established in an Alabama Supreme Court decision in 2010. Bingo is about human participation. “All that is left is for the law of the state to be enforced,” the Court wrote in one recent decision.

“For purposes of Alabama law, the issue of bingo is settled,” Parker said. “There are some facilities still in Alabama where electronic bingo is still played, but the Attorney General has litigation pending against those facilities.”

“We have three pieces of land in the state that are considered in trust for Indian tribes,” Parker said. These are in Escambia, Elmore, and Montgomery Counties and are under the jurisdiction of Congress.

The Indian Gaming Regulation Act (IGRA) set up a very complicated regulatory system regulated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs,” Parker continued. IGRA defines gambling in three classes. Class 1 is done in a social setting traditional games at your discretion. We don’t talk much about class 1. Class 2 is bingo as well as card games allowed by state law. Class 3 is a broad catch-all category of everything else. To do class 3 gaming requires a compact with the state.

A commission member asked if Indian was the appropriate term to use.

“Congress uses Indians and the Poarch Creeks also use Indians,” Parker said. I apologize if I have offended anyone.

“Right now the state cannot regulate gaming on tribal lands,” Parker said. “There are devices in those facilities that are similar to the ones seized at Victoryland.”

“Federal statutory law is not the same as the Cornerstone decision,” Parker explained. “The Alabama Supreme court rules that bingo is a game played on paper cards. With IGRA that requirement is not there. The Tribe has a right to have bingo.”

“The state sued the Tribe five or six years ago,” Parker said. “The state has an argument that the machines used in the Poarch Creek facilities are not allowed; but under this decision, the state cannot enforce that law. To date, the Federal Justice Department and the Interior Department have not enforced that.”

“Horse racing and dog racing would be Class 3 gaming,” Parker explained. To do Class III they have to have a compact with the state.

“The 11th Circuit said that the state of Alabama is not the appropriate person to enforce that,” Parker explained.

Strange said that the study group will have a public forum by April in which opponents to gambling will get to speak as well as stake owners and various entities. There will be a call to the various entities that we know about.

Strange said that there is some form of gambling in all of our neighboring states. The study group will look at what those states are doing and what the benefits are as well as the costs. A lottery, table games, electronic bingo, slot machines, and sports betting will all be looked at.

The Alabama Political Reporter asked: critics say that gambling preys on those citizens who just are not smart enough to understand math. What is your response to that?

Strange said that we have a Bishop on our group for that. Once you get beyond the moral argument there are benefits to the state that includes money for mental health to address those underlying problems.

 

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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Governor issues call to action on mask wearing: “We are at war with an invisible enemy”

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Gov. Kay Ivey on Friday issued a new call to action for all Alabamians to wear a mask to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Transcript:

Today we are at war with an invisible enemy.

Not that long ago, families across Alabama helped America turn the tide in World War II. Some joined the front lines in combat, while others led the fight on the home front.

Those sacrifices helped our nation win the war and go on to define the Greatest Generation. Now, we must answer today’s call. By comparison, our sacrifice is small.

But each of us can do our part. Mask up Alabama!

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Governor

Democratic women condemn comments on Gov. Kay Ivey’s appearance

“These comments are disrespectful, inappropriate in every way, and represent a broader culture of casual sexism,” read a joint statement from four Democratic women.

Josh Moon

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Gov. Kay Ivey held an Coronavirus update Press conference Wednesday, July 29, 2020 in Montgomery, Ala. (Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

A group of Democratic women on Wednesday issued a statement condemning comments made by a state school board member who was critical of Gov. Kay Ivey’s weight. 

Wayne Reynolds, a Republican who represents portions of northwest Alabama on the board, wrote during a live stream event that Ivey, who is also a Republican, “is gaining weight.” 

Afterward, in an interview with AL.com, Reynolds doubled — and then tripled — down on his comments as he critiqued Ivey’s choice of clothing. 

“She looked heavy in that white suit,” Reynolds said of Ivey, who held a press conference on Wednesday to update the state’s “safer-at-home” order. “I don’t know what she weighs. I just made an observation.”

Later in the interview, Reynolds said the pantsuit Ivey wore was unflattering and that he had seen her wear other suits “that were more slimming on her.”

The backlash to Reynold’s comments was swift and bipartisan with women around the state rightfully taking issue. 

“These comments are disrespectful, inappropriate in every way, and represent a broader culture of casual sexism,” read a joint statement from four Democratic women. “Women all over Alabama know what it is like to be subjected to unfair criticism on the basis of their appearance or weight. 

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“We need to cultivate an environment where individuals are judged on the basis of their skill and proficiency. Alabama elected officials should be discussing policy, not the physical appearance of policymakers. Anything less is a disservice to Alabamians. We are disturbed by Mr. Reynold’s remarks, and we hope other elected officials and candidates will likewise condemn his comments. Mr. Reynolds was wrong and we deserve better.”


The statement was signed by Amy Wasyluka, president of Alabama Democratic Women, Phyliss Harvey Hall, a District 2 congressional candidate, Dr. Adia Winfrey, a District 3 congressional candidate and Laura Casey, a candidate for president of the Alabama Public Service Commission.

 

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Nine people protesting for Medicaid expansion arrested outside Alabama Capitol

Among those arrested was former State Sen. Hank Sanders.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Nine people were arrested during a protest in front of the Alabama Capitol on Tuesday. (Hank Sanders/Facebook)

Nine people were arrested during a protest in front of the Alabama Capitol on Tuesday, which for some was the second time they’d been arrested this month while trying to bring attention to expanding Medicaid in the state and to the need for racial reconciliation.

As members of Alabama Black Lives Matter and Alabama SaveOurSelves held a demonstration Tuesday, which was live-streamed on former State Sen. Hank Sanders’ Facebook page, some began attempting to spray paint the words “Good Trouble,” a reference to the late Georgia Rep. John Lewis and his civil rights work, and “Expand Medicaid” on the street in front of the Capitol and were arrested.

Still, others began to try and spray paint onto the street and were also arrested, as can be seen in the video.

Among those arrested was Sanders, who could be seen in the video being handcuffed and loaded into a Montgomery Police Department vehicle, and his wife, 75-year-old Faya Rose Toure, an attorney, civil rights activist and former municipal judge.

The groups had planned Tuesday’s demonstration to bring attention to their push to expand Medicaid and to the arrest of five members after a demonstration there on July 16, in which members tried to use yellow spray paint to paint the words “Black Lives Matter” and “Expand Medicaid” on the street. The five turned themselves into police on July 20.

Montgomery Police Department public information officer Capt. Saba Coleman in a press release Tuesday evening said that those detained had not yet been charged. Montgomery Police declined to identify those persons who were detained.

“On Tuesday, July 28, 2020, at about 12 noon, MPD responded to the area of the Capitol in reference to protesters painting the street in front of the Capitol steps. Upon arrival, MPD witnessed the protesters painting the street. At which time, MPD notified the City of Montgomery’s Traffic Engineering Department regarding the painting of the street,” Coleman said in the statement. “The paint was deemed noncompliant because organizers failed to request and obtain proper permitting and prior approval, which resulted in a crew being dispatched to the area. Protesters involved in the offense were subsequently detained; however, they were released with charges pending. There’s no additional information available for release.”

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Faya Toure, Sanders’ wife, attorney, civil rights activist and former municipal judge, speaking to APR on Tuesday morning before the demonstration said she planned to once again work to bring attention to the need to expand Medicaid in Alabama in order to save thousands of lives a year and that she’s also addressed the arrests earlier in the month, of which she was one.

Sanders told APR on Monday that he was “mad as hell” over the arrests which included strip searches for the women but not for the men.

In an open letter to Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed, Toure wrote of her experience being strip-searched at the police station.

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“Some say I should have resisted, but I did not,” Toure starts the letter of, then describes the act of having to strip for officers. “Within minutes the ordeal that changed my soul was over.”

In a statement, ACLU of Alabama noted that the latest arrests came “just days after a memorial service honoring Representative John Lewis was held on the same steps.”

“Once again, we see Alabama police officers using the power of the government to unnecessarily seize and detain people who are exercising their constitutionally protected First Amendment right to assemble and protest,” said Randall Marshall, executive director of ACLU of Alabama in a statement. “While the Constitution does not explicitly protect people from legal repercussions when protesting crosses into civil disobedience, we paid tribute mere days ago to the life and legacy of Representative John Lewis, a man dedicated to peaceful civil disobedience.”

“His phrase ‘good trouble’ was called that precisely because protesting unjust laws means breaking those laws. Nevertheless, we have seen time and again that change does not happen without protesters who are willing to accept these consequences in order to upend the status quo and those who uphold it,” Marshall continued. “We stand with these freedom fighters–in Montgomery, Hoover, and across the state of Alabama–who are continuing to fight for a more just and equitable world where every social problem is not addressed with handcuffs.”

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Congressman and Civil Rights icon John Lewis has died

“Our country has lost one of its most beloved Civil Rights leaders,” said Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey.

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Rep. John Lewis. (LORI SHAULL)

Alabama native turned Civil Rights Movement leader and Georgia Congressman John Lewis has died.

Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Selma, mourned the passing of her friend, colleague and mentor.

“My heart breaks for the passing of my dear friend and mentor Congressman John Lewis, but my spirit soars for an angel walked among us and we were all touched by his greatness. He forever changed Selma and this nation,” Sewell said. “May we finish his life’s work and restore the Voting Rights Act.”

“Congressman John Lewis was a beacon of light, hope and inspiration throughout his life,” Sewell continued. ”To be in his presence was to experience love, whole-hearted and without exception. Though he was so often met with hatred, violence and racial terrorism, it never permeated his being. He remained until his passing a faithful servant-leader, whose righteousness, kindness and vision for a more equitable future inspired all who were blessed to know him. I am honored to have been able to call him a mentor and colleague and, above all, a friend.”

Lewis grew up on a farm outside of Troy, where his family were sharecroppers. At 21, he became a Freedom Rider. At 23, he was the youngest speaker at the 1963 March on Washington. He was a close colleague of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Civil Rights Movement. King affectionately referred to him as “the boy from Troy.”

Lewis and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Hosea Williams organized the first Selma to Montgomery voting rights march. Then-Alabama Gov. George Wallace ordered the then all-white Alabama State Troopers to stop Lewis and about 600 marchers. On March 7, 1965, the State Troopers, local law enforcement and hundreds of white citizen volunteers attacked Lewis and the other voting rights marchers when they attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.

Lewis was among the many marchers beaten that day. The event is remembered as “Bloody Sunday.”

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“On Bloody Sunday in 1965, John was confronted by Alabama state troopers and their dogs, but he was determined to fight for equality and justice, putting his own life on the line in the service of others and a vision for a brighter future,” Sewell said. “So many times did John cross bridges, insisting that our nation live up to the promises enshrined in our constitution. As he always said, he gave a little blood on Selma bridge, but he also bridged the gaps that so often divide our political parties, working every day for a more just America.”

“John believed firmly that the best days of our nation lie ahead of us,” Sewell concluded. “It is his unwavering optimism that I will continue to call upon in moments of challenge and hardship. While John has left this earth, his legacy fighting for equality and justice lives on. I hope that our nation – and our leaders – will unite behind the cause most dear to John: voting rights. We must restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to its full strength so that every American – regardless of color – is able to make their voice heard at the ballot box. John, the ‘boy from Troy,’ was the conscience of the Congress. He will be dearly missed.”

“John Lewis was an American treasure,” said Martin Luther King III in a statement. “He gave a voice to the voiceless, and he reminded each of us that the most powerful nonviolent tool is the vote. Our hearts feel empty without our friend, but we find comfort knowing that he is free at last.”

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“Our country has lost one of its most beloved Civil Rights leaders,” said Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey. “I join my fellow Alabamians & the nation in mourning the death of Rep. John Lewis. He dedicated his life to serving his community & advocating for others. We’ll forever remember his heroism & his enduring legacy.”

Lewis announced that he had stage 4 pancreatic cancer in December.

He was absent at this year’s annual remembrance of Bloody Sunday in Selma on March 1. The annual Civil Rights Pilgrimage to Alabama had been led by Lewis every year until this one.

“Not many of us get to live to see our own legacy play out in such a meaningful, remarkable way,” former President Barack Obama wrote. “John Lewis did. And thanks to him, we now all have our marching orders — to keep believing in the possibility of remaking this country we love until it lives up to its full promise.”

Lewis was age 80. He was preceded in death by his wife, Lilian Miles Lewis, who died in 2012 after a long illness.

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