The Alabama House and Senate started sessions Feb. 2, but members already had been at work pre-filing bills.
The Alabama House of Representatives pre-filed 241 while the Senate produced 131.
Gov. Kay Ivey kicked off the legislative season with her “State of the State” address, highlighting low unemployment, and praising Alabamians for never giving up in the face of a hurricane, tropical storm and floods.
“While the year tested both our patience and perseverance, it never once tested our faith,” she declared. “Despite all that was thrown at us, Alabamians remained grounded and kept our resolve. … Y’all, none of this has been easy.”
Gambling to be addressed
In her comments, Ivey addressed gambling, one of the top concerns of the Alabama Citizens Action Program.
“Since 1999, over 180 gambling bills have been introduced in the Alabama Legislature,” she noted. “However, you’ve not had a chance to make your voice heard.”
Ivey established a group last February to examine the benefits and drawbacks of expanded gambling, which gave its report in December.
The governor told residents she was proud of the group’s efforts and expressed confidence in the legislature to “be thoughtful and deliberate as they debate this issue. But let me be absolutely clear, this must be a transparent process — with no deals being cut under the table.”
In her address, Ivey stressed that “good can come from this effort. The current system only costs the state money and you, the people, don’t benefit in any way.
Voters will speak
In an interview with Associated Press, al.com and the Montgomery Advertiser Feb. 3, Ivey vowed not to negotiate a compact with a federal Native-American tribe unless voters approve expanded gambling.
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians, the only federally recognized tribe in Alabama, runs casinos in Atmore, Montgomery and Wetumpka, all operating under federal law.
Ivey told reporters her primary role in the upcoming debate will be to “monitor,” adding that gambling locations should be limited because the state doesn’t need “gaming on every corner.”
“We need it regulated. And if we do it in the right way, I think not only we’ll become the envy of other states, but also our people will benefit in a responsible way,” Ivey said.
Three House bills were pre-filed. ALCAP opposes each of them.
- HB161 — Sponsored by Rep. John W. Rogers Jr., a Democrat representing District 52 (Jefferson County), legalizes sports wagering
- HB199 — Sponsored by Rogers, legalizes a state-sponsored lottery
- HB200 — Sponsored by Rogers, legalizes casino gambling.
One that concerns Joe Godfrey, executive director of ALCAP, already is headed to the Senate floor. Senate Bill 46 aims at legalizing medical marijuana, and passed the Senate Judiciary Committee Feb. 3 (click here to read more). The bill was sponsored by Republican and physician State Sen. Tim Melson of Florence.
House Bill 2, sponsored by Rep. Mike Holmes, a Republican representing District 31 (Elmore County), and Rep. Wes Allen, a Republican representing District 89 (Dale and Pike Counties), would outlaw the drug Tianeptine, an antidepressant. ALCAP supports this legislation.
Rep. Gil Isbell pre-filed HB101, which would allow direct delivery of alcoholic beverages to homes. Isbell is a Republican who represents District 28. ALCAP opposes this bill. Two similar bills are being considered in the Senate (SB10) and House (H1).
HB1 — Vulnerable Child Compassion & Protection Act prevents parents from performing transgender treatments and/or surgery on minor children. This is sponsored by five representatives: Allen; Holmes; Rep. Phillip Pettus, a Republican from District 1 (Lauderdale County); Rep. Arnold Mooney, a Republican from District 43 (Shelby County); and Rep. Chip Brown, a Republican from District 105 (Mobile County). ALCAP supports this bill along with the companion Senate bill.
SB10 is a companion to HB1. The Senate bill is sponsored by State Sen. Shay Shelnutt, who represents District 17 (Blount, Jefferson and St. Clair Counties).
Click here to view other current Alabama legislation.