Lottery-Gambling Bills leave many unresolved questions for Greene County

News Analysis by John Zippert, Co-Publisher

The Lottery-Gambling Bill which passed the Alabama State Senate failed in the Alabama House of Representatives on the last day of the session. The bill as passed by the Senate created an Alabama Lottery with most proceeds going to higher education scholarships and established casino gambling at six designated locations in the state, with proceeds going to the state’s general fund for broadband expansion, rural health care support and other priorities. The bill provided for casino gambling with slot machines and table games, such as Blackjack, Roulette and others, at places in the state that previously had dog racing and some new locations. Casino gaming was specifically provided at Greenetrack in Greene County, Mobile, Birmingham, Shorter (Victoryland in Macon County), Dothan and a new facility in the northeast corner of the state (near Chattanooga, TN.). The lottery and gaming regulation was placed under the control of a statewide commission and tax revenues flowed to the state. There was also a provision that some portion of the taxes would be returned to the local jurisdictions where gaming facilities were located. The Porch Creek Band of Choctaw Indians that own and operate electronic bingo gambling, on tribal land, at Atmore, Wetumpka and Montgomery would be allowed to upgrade their gambling operations to table games, under Federal regulations. The Porch Creek interests were allowed to compete for the new location in NE Alabama. There were also provisions allowing a compact between the State of Alabama and the Porch Creek Band relative to revenues from gambling. There were many groups and interests in Greene County who opposed the bill because it did not answer some issues and questions they had. Greene County voters overwhelming approved Constitutional Amendment 743, in November 2003, which allowed electronic bingo in the county. The licensing and payment of monthly fees and charitable contributions is governed by the Sheriff of Greene County. Currently there are six licensed bingo operations in Greene County – Greenetrack, Bama Bingo, Frontier, River’s Edge, Palace and Marvel City. There were five operating bingo enterprises during the last legislative session. These bingo operations employ 300 to 500 persons in their operations, most of whom are Greene County residents. Greenetrack is responsible for approximately 100 of the employed positions. For the month of April 2021, the five bingo operations contributed $600,948.87, based on fees per machine, to the Greene County Commission, Greene County Board of Education, Greene County Health System, Greene County Sheriff’s Department, the cities of Eutaw, Forkland, Union and Boligee, as well as a group of non-profit charitable organizations. Greenetrack provided $71,000 to the same government and municipal agencies. These agencies receive over $7 million a year in revenues from the bingo operations. The heads of these agencies are quick to say without these bingo revenues they would have a difficult time in providing necessary services to the residents of Greene County. The major unresolved questions in the effort to create statewide lottery and casino gambling were what happens to the other bingo operations in Greene County, if Greenetrack becomes the only officially designated gambling site in Greene County. What happens to the other bingo halls in Greene County? Will they have to close? Will they have to lay off their employees? What guarantees are there to the county agencies, including the schools, health system and municipal governments, that receive $7 million a year in revenues from bingo, that these funds will be continued or replaced with other funds? The lottery/gambling bill died in the legislature this session but it will surely be revived again in a future special or regular legislative session. The questions we have raised in this article and that are on the minds of Greene County residents remain unresolved. Greene County is a special case, we and Lowndes County, already have an established electronic bingo industry, which was not taken into consideration in the debate on the lottery/gambling bill in this year’s session. We must take actions to assure our interests and concerns are considered in future discussions of gambling in Alabama. The Democrat will stay on top of this issue and welcomes letters and comments from our readers.

Alabama Poor People’s Campaign holds rally at State Capitol steps in Montgomery in preparation for National Call for Moral Revival

Special to the Democrat by: Miriam Wright

Demonstartor on steps of Capitol.jpg

 

Demonstrators from the Poor People’s on steps of the Alabama State Capitol at
Monday’s rally. Photo courtesy of Brian Lyman, Montgomery Advertiser.

A cold morning brought rays of sunshine this past Monday, February 6, 2018, to Alabama – along with more than 30 states plus Washington D.C. – helping roll out the National Poor People’s Campaign. Initiated by Rev. William Barber of North Carolina, leader of the ‘Moral Monday Movement’, this grassroots movement already has feet beginning to march across the nation in an effort to uplift human dignity.
On the steps in front of the state capitol in Montgomery, a non-denominational, non-partisan group of some 50 people gathered.

A podium was erected and a PA system sprung to life with the introduction of speakers including: Rev.Tonny Algood, United Methodist Inner City Mission, Mobile, Rev.Carolyn Foster, Greater Birmingham Ministries, Birmingham., Rev.James Rutledge, AME Zion Church, Birmingham., Imam Abdur Rahim Sabree, Muslim Center of Montgomery, Natividad Gonzalez, Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ACIJ) Organizer, Birmingham – War Economy, Wanda, Bryant, Community Activist, Birmingham.- Poverty, Jelanie Coleman, Night of 1, Selma. Common threads were the reality of the level of poverty existing in our country today and the ills that have been perpetuated and increased as the result of being ignored for decades. The talks were to the point, addressing the issues of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy and ecological devastation, all hot topics for the Campaign.
Like all other Poor Peoples Campaigns around the nation in their own capitols, Alabama’s delegation delivered letters to both branches of the Legislature, House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston.
Campaign organizers Tonny Algood and Cara McClure delivered the letters to the legislators.
The letter read in part, “We demand a change in course… Our faith traditions and federal constitution all testify to the immorality of an economy that leaves out the poor, yet our political discourses consistently ignore the 140 million poor and low-income people in America.”
The letters also made clear that unless direct actions are taken immediately to address these chronic problems, there would be visible consequences in the way of a massive wave of Nonviolent Civil Disobedience, that the Poor People’s Campaign will initiate on Mother’s Day, May 12, 2018 and continuing for forty days.
This Poor People’s Campaign and National Call for Moral Revival will sweep the nation this spring, including Alabama if the conditions of poor people are not radically changed. In the words of Carolyn Foster, chair of the state PPC committee, “We have come to say clearly that a politics that ignores the poor has gone on far too long, and we will not be silent anymore.”
For more information and how to get involved go to:
Locally: http://www.facebook.com/AlabamaPPC/Nationally: http://www.poorpeoplescampaign;
and of course you will find each chapter on Facebook as well as Twitter.

ANSA endorses Attorney Doug Jones, Birmingham, in the Democratic Primary for U. S. Senate on August 15

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Candidate Doug Jones with Greene County Commissioner Michael Williams (Dist. 5) at the ANSA screening

 

After a screening meeting with seven candidates for the position of U. S. Senator from Alabama, the Alabama New South Alliance unanimously endorsed Attorney Doug Jones of Birmingham for this position, in the statewide Democratic Primary set for August 15, 2017.
This is a special election, prescribed by Governor Kay Ivey to fill the U. S. Senate seat that was vacated by Jefferson Beauregard Sessions when he was selected to be U. S. Attorney General Luther Strange was appointed by Governor Robert Bentley to occupy this seat until the special election. Strange is running for the position in the Republican primary against several challengers including former Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, congressman Mo Brooks, and eight others.
“It was the unanimous consensus of our ANSA Screening Committee to endorse Doug Jones for this U. S. Senate position, in the Democratic Primary, in the Special Election on August 15, 2017. He met all of the criteria that we set up to measure candidates and he gave strong answers to a wide array of questions raised by our committee,” said Sharon Calhoun, Co-Chair of ANSA.
Doug Jones was the former U. S. Attorney for North Alabama, based in Birmingham from 1997 to 2002. He was appointed by President Clinton and confirmed by a Republican controlled Senate.

Jones is best known for the successful prosecution of those responsible for killing four young girls in the 1963 Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing.
In 2002, Jones was the lead prosecutor in the case that won murder convictions against Thomas Blanton and Bobby Frank Cherry for the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church that killed four girls. The convictions came nearly 40 years after the 1963 bombing.
Jones also worked on the indictment of Birmingham abortion clinic bomber Eric Robert Rudolph, whose 1998 attack killed an off-duty police officer and severely injured a clinic nurse. Rudolph, who also placed a bomb at the Atlanta Olympics, was captured and convicted after Jones left office.
Jones has worked in private practice in Birmingham for the past 15 years and represented various clients including former Jefferson County Commissioner Chris McNair and others in various cases.
Jones said in his interview that Alabama officials spend too little time focused on the real concerns of the people — jobs, health care and education — and instead have “played on our fears and exploited our divisions for their own self interests.”
“We need leaders who people can talk to, reason with, and trust even if they don’t agree on every political position. We need leaders who people can talk to, reason with, and trust even if they don’t agree on every political position.”
Jones indicated that his work on the Birmingham church bombing cases had gained him a national following and reputation which would help in fundraising and support for his Senate race.
He told the ANSA Screening Committee, “ I want to work to use this Senate race to reinvigorate the Democratic Party in Alabama. This will be a transformational race and hopefully it will open the doors for the 2018 state races for Governor and Legislature.”
Seven candidates appeared before the ANSA Screening Committee on Saturday. They included six Democrats and one Republican. The Democrats in addition to Doug Jones were: Michael Hansen, Rev. Will Boyd, Jason E. Fisher, Vann Caldwell, and Brian McGee. The Republican was James Baretta.
“We want to encourage these candidates to stay active in the political process. We could only endorse one for this special election – but we will need many Democratic candidates in the 2018 election. We encourage these candidates to remain active with ANSC and ANSA and prepare for future elections,” said Gus Townes, ANSA Co-Chair.
For more information on the ANSA endorsement contact: Ms. Shelley Fearson – 334/262-0932

Lawsuit claims state blocking Birmingham minimum wage hike violates Voting Rights Act

By Kelly Poe | kpoe@al.com

 

B'ham Fight for $15 protestors
 B’ham Fight for $15 protestors

 

The suit that says Alabama broke the law by blocking Birmingham’s minimum wage hike was amended Thursday to claim the nullification violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In April, the Alabama National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Greater Birmingham Ministries filed the suit in U.S. District Court. The original suit claimed that HB 174 is tainted “with racial animus” and that is violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.
The amended complaint filed Thursday added the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus and nine individual black state legislators as plaintiffs to the suit.
The amended suit also added a new complaint: that the defendants violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by transferring control over minimum wages from Birmingham’s officials – who were voted in by Birmingham’s majority black electorate – to state officials, who were elected by a majority white electorate. The suit claims this effectively disenfranchises Birmingham’s voters.
On Thursday morning, the Alabama NAACP and Greater Birmingham Ministries filed the suit in U.S. District Court. “It perpetuates an official policy of political white supremacy that has been maintained in Alabama since it became a state in 1819, whereby white control is preserved by state government over the governing bodies of majority-black counties, cities, and educational institutions,” the complaint says.
The suit argues that the bill violates equal protection law because it targets an ordinance that Birmingham’s black community and council strongly supported.
The Birmingham City Council voted in 2015 to raise the city’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour through incremental raises. The Republican super majorities in the legislature’s House and Senate put a bill to void the increase on the fast track, prompting the council to expedite Birmingham’s raise, but the law ultimately voided the ordinance.