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Opinion | Voters must now turn to Gov. Ivey on gaming leadership

Without her leadership, the state’s citizens will never be given the right to vote on gaming up or down.

Gov. Kay Ivey

Meaningful progress in Alabama never happens unless the governor is behind it. Unfortunately, many bad things happen without the governor’s input.

This past week, the Alabama Supreme Court issued an opinion that may be a near deathblow to any chance of allowing the state’s citizens an opportunity to vote on a lottery and gaming constitutional amendment.

On the last day of September, the ALSC overturned a lower court’s ruling and declared the dog track and electronic bingo facility in Shorter, VictoryLand, is a “public nuisance.” It did the same in Lowndes County and is expected to rule against the Greene County facilities as well. This move means these businesses will be shuttered, costing over 550 jobs in Macon County alone.

This action by the ALSC at the behest of Attorney General Steve Marshall is nothing more than a continuation of former Gov. Bob Riley’s destructive bingo wars. These actions were not about what was best for the state or the law but about the furtherance of a political career and personally held beliefs by some of the state’s high court.

In April, Ivey lamented the failure of the Legislature to pass a gaming bill. While saying she was “not much for gambling,” she thought the people have a right to vote on the issue, according to a report in the Montgomery Advertiser. “I do think the people have a right to make that decision,” Ivey said. “I wish that had passed the Legislature so people could vote it up or down in November.”

Ivey has done more to bring about positive change and to address many of the state’s lingering problems than nearly all of her male predecessors.

On serval occasions, Ivey has said she would support gaming legislation if lawmakers would bring her a viable agreed-upon bill. There is a workable bill and the votes — as of the last session — were in place but it was never given a hearing because of a lack of willing leadership in the House.

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Over the last several years, lawmakers have consulted with VictoryLand, GreeneTrack and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians to bring about comprehensive legislation that would legalize, tax and regulate gaming in the state. Without these legal entities’ input, any legislation would be flawed and unfair.

In November 2015, then-Gov. Robert Bentley called for an end to Riley’s bingo wars by issuing Executive Order 13, which states in part:

“the primary responsibility for enforcement of Alabama’s criminal laws shall remain with the sheriffs and district attorneys of each County as guided by their careful interpretation of the laws of the State of Alabama in their capacity as constitutional officers and officers of the courts.”

Not long after Ivey was elevated to the Governor’s Office with Bentley’s resignation, APR reached out to her office to ask whether Executive Order 13 was still in effect. The answer was yes.

The intention of Executive Order 13 was to exclude the Attorney General’s office from using its power for political reasons and to end Riley’s phony bingo wars. Marshall ignored Executive Order 13 for personal political gain and the ALSC was happy to accommodate a political win for its members even though the lower court should have had jurisdiction.

Now, the people of Alabama must again turn to Gov. Ivey because, without her leadership, the state’s citizens will never be given the right to vote on gaming up or down.

She may not be much for gambling, but Ivey is very much for the state’s people.

I fear without her leadership, the people’s voice will be stifled under the weight of political hypocrisy and political gain.

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We all now look to Gov, Kay Ivey for an Alabama solution to this Alabama problem.

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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