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5/3/2010 - May 2010 SLI Educational Update - 2010 Legislative Report

AN EDUCATIONAL UPDATE FROM

THE SOUTHEAST LAW INSTITUTE™, INC.

 

To:                  SLI Supporters                                  

Date:               May 2010  

From:              A. Eric Johnston

Re:                  2010 Legislative Report

Gambling interests were insistent on passing a bingo bill.  Pro-life bills made no progress at all.   This Legislature acted as it had for the last three years.  In the 20 or so years I have been working with the Legislature, I have never seen such a perverse and misdirected group of elected officials.  If it had not been for a remnant of good ones there, we would have been sad indeed.

During these past four months, if you picked up virtually any newspaper in the state on virtually any day of the week, there would be an article about the bingo issue.  The issue is two pronged, viz., the legislative effort to legalize gambling and the Governor’s Task Force to close down gambling, including his dispute with the Attorney General about whether electronic bingo is legal and who should control enforcement of the law.  Because of this gambling dilemma, we predicted this year would be more significant than any other year on the gambling issue.  We found that to be true.  The reason was that if the Governor’s Task Force succeeds through the courts in restricting electronic bingo to the limited charity bingo that it should be, then without new laws, the gamblers would be out of business. 

The first bill proposed to create a monopoly for the existing gambling establishments with the payment of minimal fees and taxes.   That effort did not succeed.  The sponsors came back with a substitute bill which would have done virtually the same thing, though they were claiming gambling would be significantly limited.  The substitute provided a liberal definition of bingo, permitting every type of electronic game imaginable, and then allowing the Legislature, through a special session January 2011, to fill in all the blanks on who, where and when.   

Neither one of the bills succeeded.  This was in spite of an extremely costly media campaign to “let the people vote.”  This mantra was played over and over again, in the media, in advertising and on the Senate and House floors.  We realized that it made quite an impression and was successful in many ways.  However, if either bill had passed the Legislature, allowing the people to vote on it, if approved, it would have completely changed Alabama into a “gambling destination.”  If the proposal failed, we would still have the electronic gambling issues we now have.  That brings us to a second point.

The Governor and the Attorney General continue to feud on who has control of gambling prosecution.  There may be a Supreme Court opinion sooner than later to answer this.  If it is the Attorney General, he will not prosecute and the gamblers will continue on their profitable way.  If it is the Governor, the Task Force will be aggressive in prosecuting and bringing to a conclusion all unlawful gambling. 

We reported earlier in the year there were a number of pro-life bills.  Only one of the bills made any progress.  There were at least six bills.  One of the most important was the Healthcare Rights of Conscience bill which has been attempted for a number of years. None of these bills ever came up in committee.  There was even one bill that was so simple and helpful that it is amazing it did not pass.  That bill was the Umbilical Cord Blood Use bill.  It would have required physicians to provide to pregnant women patients information about being able to donate or store their umbilical cord blood for stem cell use later.  The bill passed the House and was taken to the Senate Health Committee where it was killed, because it appeared to be about “life.” 

Finally, there was a bill that would have created an exception from state regulation of substance abuse rehabilitation programs operated by churches and other ministries.  The Department of Mental Health was in agreement with the legislation.  That bill made it all the way through the Senate and both House and Senate committees and on the last day showed up in the House for a vote.  The gambling lobby, which had seen pastors in the State House on almost a daily basis on the gambling, realized these programs were operated by some of those same pastors.  The gamblers took retribution and killed a very important protection for the church.

Now, the lesson from all of this is that the mid-term elections will be in November.  Every citizen has a duty and obligation to inform himself on where candidates stand and then cast his vote accordingly.  Please share these events with others so they will see the importance of electing Senators and Representatives who will truly protect the good of the people, rather than special interests.   

 

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