Electronic bingo saga still playing outPublished 11:00pm Thursday, November 29, 2012
It would appear that being a state legislator is an exciting and challenging experience. Some of you might think that a legislator’s average day is spent molding pubic policy and debating important measures that could have dramatic effects on the lives of their constituents. However, let me tell you from experience that much of a legislator’s day in Alabama is spent voting on mundane local bills that only apply to our 67 counties.
Our state constitution is antiquated and restricts the power of county commissioners. Therefore, legislators spend an inordinate amount of time voting on local bills like whether Fayette County can buy a tractor. Unfortunately, these local issues have to appear on a statewide ballot for your final approval. This year was no different. There were three local amendments. However, there were some constitutional amendments on this year’s ballot that actually will have ramifications and significance.
For example, you approved Amendment 1, which extends the Forever Wild Land Preservation Act for another 20 years. Also, Amendment 2, which was endorsed by Gov. Bentley, passed 69% to 31%. It allows the state to sell more bonds to allow us to offer incentives to industries to build or expand in Alabama. We also passed an amendment which serves more as a resolution to undercut the federal Affordable Care Act, known as Obama Care. It officially prohibits anyone from being compelled to participate in any health care plan. You gave overwhelming approval to constitutional Amendment 8 that sets legislative compensation based on Alabama’s median household income. Finally, you strengthened Alabama’s claim as being one of the most devout right to work states by passing a provision that provides that unions can only be organized by a secret ballot rather than by simply signing a card.
Over a decade ago the people of Macon County overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment giving them the right to have electronic bingo gambling. It is hard to understand how Gov. Bob Riley circumvented this constitutional measure and brazenly brought half of the Troopers in the state into Macon County and militarily closed down their largest industry, VictoryLand.
Johnny Ford, the longtime mayor and now new mayor of Tuskegee, has made reopening VictoryLand priority one in his new administration. Ford was the sponsor of the original bingo legislation in 2003 when he represented Macon County in the legislature. He went to great lengths to make sure that the measure had the proper language that allowed for electronic bingo. Ford has vowed that he and his Macon County constituents “are prepared to fight until death when it comes to our voting rights, civil rights and our economic rights and we will continue our fight until VictoryLand is reopened and our people are back to work.”
It was well documented that former Gov. Bob Riley received over $400,000 in campaign contributions from Indian gambling interests for his election campaign for governor in 2002. It appeared pretty transparent and obvious that Riley’s efforts to raid and close the non-Indian gambling facility in Macon County was a quid pro quo pay back to grant a monopoly to the Indian gambling bosses.
Now come the Macon County officials with fire in their eyes and they have filed an ethics complaint against Attorney General Luther Strange whereby they claim that Big Luther’s receiving $100,000 in campaign contributions from the Poarch Creek Indian gambling interests and his persistence at continuing on the same path as Bob Riley is unethical and illegal.
The Alabama Supreme Court established during the Bob Riley administration that the governor is the ultimate law enforcement officer in the state. Therefore, the Macon County officials argue that Gov. Bentley should take charge of this issue rather than Attorney General Strange.
The electronic bingo saga continues to play out in Alabama politics.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.