Note: House bills are identified as "HB" and Senate bills are identified as "SB"
Click here to find the names and contact information of your state legislators.
People often call our office to find out how certain legislators voted on certain bills or issues. Project Vote Smartis an excellent resource for finding such answers. Click on the "Project Vote Smart" link then, type in your zip code or the legislator's name, the issue or key word about which you are inquiring and the year. Then click on "Go."
9And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
Legislative Update - Week 10
Another busy week at the Alabama Legislature! Click here for a report from the Southeast Law Institute's Eric Johnston, ALCAP's legal advisor, concerning HB277 (the daycare licensing bill) and HB440 (the Youth Residential Prevention Act).
In addition to these bills, HB354 (the Daily Fantasy Sports gambling legalization bill), which passed out of the House of Representatives last week by a narrow margin of only 5 votes, was in the Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee on Wednesday of this week. The chairman, Sen. Del Marsh, allowed for a public hearing on the bill and ALCAP was able to address our concerns with this pro-gambling bill. A lawyer representing the largest Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) companies, FanDuel and DraftKings, tried to counter ALCAP's comments, but fell short and actually reinforced the facts presented by ALCAP. The chairman agreed to postpone a vote of the committee until next week. Please contact members of the Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee before Wednesday, May 3, and ask them to vote NOT to give the bill a favorable report. Then call your State Senator and ask him or her to oppose HB354 (the Daily Fantasy Sports bill) if it comes to the full Senate for a vote.
The House, on Tuesday, passed HB353 (the "Sunday Brunch Bill"). This bill will allow any county or municipality that currently has Sunday alcohol sales to begin selling alcohol at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings instead of noon or 1:00 p.m. (as some local ordinances currently allow). One problem with this bill is that, while some counties and municipalities were able to get Sunday alcohol sales with a simple vote of the local governing authorities, many required a vote of the people. Some of the counties and municipalities that had a vote of the people did so in the form of a constitutional amendment. If your area passed Sunday alcohol sales by a constitutional amendment, HB353 does not apply to you because a statute cannot override a constitutional amendment. But, some counties and municipalities passed Sunday alcohol sales by a referendum (not a constitutional amendment). These counties and municipalities could have been impacted by this bill because it would allow their local governing bodies to override the vote of the people. However, Rep. Steve Clouse managed to get an amendment to the bill that would prevent county and municipality officials from moving the start time to 10:30 a.m. if their local ordinance had been passed by a referendum of the people.
HB24 (the Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act, sponsored by Rep. Rich Wingo) protects child-placing organizations that have certain religious requirements from having to place children with couples that do not meet their agency's criteria. This bill passed the House and Senate, and has now gone to Governor Ivey's office for her signature. Governor Ivey has requested an executive amendment be added that we are currently studying. As soon as we know whether or not this amendment is acceptable, we will let you know the bill's status and if there is action you may need to take.
Continue to pray for the Alabama Legislature and Governor Ivey. There are only nine days left in the 2017 Legislative Session and the expected final day of the Session will be May 18.
Legislative Update - Week 9
It was a very busy week. On Tuesday, the House passed HB354 (the Daily Fantasy Sports Bill). There was a great deal of confusion on the floor during the proceedings. First, it was announced by the Speaker that the Budget Isolation Resolution (BIR) vote, which requires two-thirds of the members voting in order to pass, had failed. [NOTE: The BIR is a procedural vote that allows for bills to come to the floor for debate. Until the General Fund and the Education Trust Fund Budgets are passed, all other bills must receive a BIR vote. Once the budgets are passed, the BIR vote is no longer necessary.]
Before the next bill was brought up, Rep. John Rogers called for "Reconsideration." A vote on a particular bill (or procedural vote) can be "reconsidered" one time within 24 hours of the first vote. The vote to reconsider passed, so the House members voted on the BIR a second time. This time the BIR again failed to pass according to the numbers on the monitor. Then, after much deliberation around the Speaker's desk, the Speaker announced that the voting machine was not functioning properly and after checking the individual votes, they had determined that the BIR did actually pass, so HB354 was brought up for debate.
During the lengthy debate a couple of good amendments, presented by Rep. Mike Jones, were passed. We are concerned that those amendments, which place greater restrictions on the Daily Fantasy Sports companies may be stripped from the bill in the Senate. When the vote on final passage of the bill was taken, the bill only passed by a narrow margin of 5 votes. You can click here to see how your House member voted.
HB354 now goes to the Senate. We need for a groundswell of people to contact their State Senator and encourage him/her to OPPOSE HB354. To understand how dangerous this online gambling bill is (even though proponents argue that it is not gambling), you can click here to read what Stop Predatory Gambling has written about this deceptive enterprise. You can also click here to watch the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) documentary, Frontline, from 2016 about Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS). Forty-three minutes into the documentary, the producers interviewed a young man from Auburn, AL, Josh Adams, who lost $20,000 playing DFS. You can also read the New York Times story about Josh Adams by clicking here.
Another bill, HB277, sponsored by Rep. Pebblin Warren, would have required church daycares to be licensed by the Department of Human Resources (DHR) and meet all of that department's minimum standards in order to operate. While everyone agreed that we want to protect the safety of children, many churches felt that this government intrusion into local church ministries was unnecessary. The problem that this bill was intended to address was "pop-up" daycares that were using the name of a church to avoid having to be licensed by DHR and then applying for federal and/or state assistance in order to make money. A compromise bill was presented on the floor by Rep. Jim Carns that will both protect children and protect the religious freedom of churches. Basically, the agreement was that daycares receiving government subsidies must be licensed whether they are a church or not. Also, DHR may do an annual inspection of all church daycares to make sure that children are being safely cared for. We are grateful to many who helped in reaching this compromise, but especially Eric Johnston (Southeast Law Institute and ALCAP's legal advisor), Robin Mears (executive director of the Alabama Christian Educators Association), Melanie Bridgeforth (executive director of VOICES for Alabama's Children) and all the legislators who worked hard to negotiate this agreement. Special thanks should go to Rep. Warren for bringing this important issue to everyone's attention.
To read the vote counts on HB277 and to see how your House member voted, click here. To read the final version of the bill, click here. The bill now goes to the Senate. We will keep you informed of any changes that might be made to the bill.
HB24 (the Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act), sponsored by Rep. Rich Wingo, passed the Senate on Tuesday with one amendment, and now must go back to the House for concurrence (which we expect to take place on Tuesday, April 25). This bill protects church-affiliated adoption agencies from being required to place children for adoption in homes that do not comply with their religious views.
Three pro-life bills also passed the Senate on Thursday: HB96 (the Assisted Suicide Ban Act), sponsored by Rep. Mack Butler; HB95 (the Health Care Providers Protection Act), sponsored by Rep. Arnold Mooney; and HB98 (the "Alabama's Commitment to the Right to Life Constitutional Amendment"), sponsored by Rep. Matt Fridy [NOTE: HB98 is a constitutional amendment which will be on a statewide ballot in order to be ultimately approved by the voters of Alabama]. We celebrate the passage of HB24 and all three of the pro-life bills!
Legislative Update - Week 8
Rather than reporting on the past week (I'm not sure I can add anything to the news of the Governor's resignation), I want to focus attention on one bill that is on the Special Order calendar in the House next Tuesday, April 18. House Bill (HB) 354 is the second bill on the calendar. This bill, by Rep. Alan Boothe, will legalize online gambling in Alabama in the form of Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS).
Proponents argue that it is not gambling, but a game of skill. However, many, including casino owners in Las Vegas, have stated that it IS gambling. DFS is not season-long, league play between friends and family. Rather, it is big business in which big companies such as DraftKings and FanDuel will be the biggest winners. Players compete against hundreds of thousands of people around the world and can play on a daily basis.
We need for church members and pastors to contact their House Members in large numbers! If you can come to the Alabama State House on Tuesday and speak to your House Member personally, please do so!
To read the facts about Daily Fantasy Sports, click here. Click here for a PBS documentary on Daily Fantasy Sports. To find your House Member's contact information, click here.
PLEASE HELP US STOP THIS PRO-GAMBLING BILL!
Legislative Update - Week 7
After two weeks of spring break, legislators returned to Montgomery on April 4. We are now half way through the session and so far, none of the pro-gambling bills have been advanced. We continue to hear that everyone is waiting for the Governor's Advisory Council on Gaming (Gambling) to make its report before proceeding with any gambling legislation. We expect that report to be ready by mid-April, which may be too late for any gambling bills to get passed during this session.
Having said that, the Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) gambling bills have already passed out of committees in both the House (HB354) and Senate (SB270), but have not been placed on the calendars of either house for full floor debate. The Senate leaders have indicated they will not address this issue until the House passes a DFS bill, so we are watching the House very carefully. We will let you know if any movement takes place, but feel free to contact your House member and State Senator any time and let them know of your objection to these bills.
HB277 that requires church daycares to be licensed by the Department of Human Resources (DHR) continues to be undergoing "behind the scenes" negotiations. While everyone wants to protect children, there is also a concern about protecting the religious freedom of churches. We hope to be able to report that a compromise has been worked out before the bill is placed on the calendar in the House.
Marijuana legalization/commercialization is not moving in the legislature, but it has become a "hot topic" on social media and in the secular media in Alabama. Churches need to begin equipping themselves for this growing issue. ALCAP and our educational program, American Character Builders, have resources you can use to educate your church members on this issue. Sadly, even many church members are beginning to argue that people should be allowed to use marijuana for recreational purposes. We are quickly approaching a cultural mentality not unlike that of ancient Israel as described in the Book of Judges, "Every man did what was right in his own eyes." (Judges 17:6 and 21:25)
The pro-life bills passed in the House before spring break are currently making their way through the Senate. As soon as we know what day the Senate will take up these bills, we will let you know.
It is expected that this coming week the House will spend much of its time engaged in the impeachment of Governor Robert Bentley. Be in prayer for everyone involved in this issue. Pray for Governor Bentley and his staff. Pray for the House members as they seek to make the right decisions. Pray for the senators, if they are called on to try the impeachment case. Pray for Lt. Governor Kay Ivey and her staff in the event she assumes the duties of the Governor. Pray for our state as we all struggle through this serious issue.
Gambling or skill? Alabama lawmakers ponder whether to turn fantasy sports into a reality
By John Sharp
March 22, 2017
Is fantasy sports gaming a battle of wits and smarts that's worthy of free-market protection? Or is it just dolled-up digital gambling that deserves being outlawed? Josh Adams, following the debate in Montgomery from 50 miles away, can speak to the questions as well as anyone in the country.
Adams, 38, who lives in Auburn, is already nationally known for his views on the matter.
In the past two years, both the New York Times and the PBS show "Frontline" have come to talk to Adams, a recovering gambling addict, featuring him in deeply-reported stories about fantasy sports gaming and the risky obsessions associated with it.
"I want people in Alabama to be able to play daily fantasy sports," Adams, who works for an entertainment production company in Opelika, said in an interview this week with AL.com. "Most people can play responsibly."
And for people who can't play responsibly, like himself, Adams insists that the industry owes them forthright warnings to stay away, and to tell them where to find help.
In the Legislature, three bills are in play to legalize daily fantasy sports gaming by Alabama players. And the brains-vs.-luck debate is well under way.
"To me, I don't see it as the same type of gambling that I've been opposed to in the past such as the casino-type of gambling," said Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, who is sponsoring one of the bills. "It's about the skills of picking teams that are playing once a day or a couple times a week."
Countered Joe Godfrey, executive director of Alabama Citizens Action Program - an organization funded by Alabama churches that opposes gaming of any kind: "It's nothing more than online casinos. They say it's all skill. It's not."
This week in the Alabama Legislature might be one of the most significant weeks in recent years! Most weeks during the Regular Session there are only two legislative days, plus a day or two of committee meetings. This week there were three legislative days, and on the last day, the Alabama House of Representatives passed the following four important pro-life bills:
HB98 (sponsored by Rep. Matt Fridy) is a constitutional amendment that the people of Alabama must approve. If passed by the Senate and by the voters on a state-wide ballot, this amendment will constitutionalize Alabama's commitment to the right of life of unborn children.
HB95 (the Health Care Rights of Conscience Act, sponsored by Rep. Arnold Mooney) will protect health care providers who decline to perform services that violate their consciences. There are exceptions included in the legislation.
HB96 (the Assisted Suicide Ban Act, sponsored by Rep. Mack Butler) will make it illegal for individuals or health care providers to provide aid in dying under certain conditions.
HB24 (the Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act, sponsored by Rep. Rich Wingo) will prohibit the state from discriminating against child care service providers under certain conditions.
Now these bills must go to the Senate for a vote. As a constitutional amendment, HB98, if it passes the Senate will not go to the Governor's desk, but will go directly on a future ballot for the people of Alabama to decide. The other bills, if they pass the Senate, will go to the Governor for his signature. Please call your State Senator and ask him/her to vote YES on all four of these bills.
In other news, HB277 (sponsored by Rep. Pebblin Warren) has been carried over until various parties can work out a compromise that will both protect children and the religious freedom of churches. We will keep you posted as decisions are made.
HB353 (sponsored by Rep. Juandalynn Givan) did not receive enough votes to be brought to the floor of the House for a vote. This bill would have allowed alcohol to be sold on Sundays, beginning at 10:30 a.m. instead of the current time of 12:00 noon. ALCAP spoke against this bill in a public hearing and we are grateful that enough House members realized that this bill is not good for the people of Alabama. It can come up again, but only after both the General Fund and the Education Trust Fund Budgets have passed both houses (which doesn't usually happen until near the end of the legislative session).
Thank you for your continued prayers and financial support of ALCAP. Please call your legislators and thank them for their votes on the pro-life bills. We hope to have the voting record for each pro-life bill at a later date..
Legislative Update - Week 5
Week #5 of the Alabama Legislature was one of the busiest so far this 2017 Session and there is much to report, but before I do, I want to share with you important information about this upcoming week. Thursday, March 16, 2017, has been designated as “PRO-LIFE DAY” at the Alabama Legislature. On that day, the House of Representatives will be working to pass several important pro-life bills.
We are coordinating with House leadership, to have a presence inside the statehouse. We need as many people as possible to be there that day. People need to call on their House member and sit in the gallery or overflow rooms to watch the debate. We do not yet know what time the House will begin. We will let you know as soon as they set the time. The day is likely to be long, so people need to come anytime they can, they do not need to be there all day. Please alert everyone in your database and in your church to this event and follow up. We need to show the House we respect their willingness to move these pro-life bills. This may be the most important day of the session. If we do not make a good showing, it will damage our cause. Thank you for you help.
This past week ALCAP was able to present information on Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) online gambling to two different committees. The Senate committee indicated they will not act on the bill until it passes the House. The House committee did not vote to send their version of the bill to the full House on the day of the public hearing, but we anticipate that they will do so, possibly next week. It is important for everyone to let their House member and state Senator know that they oppose this legislation. If you have not already contacted your legislators about the Daily Fantasy Sports online gambling issue, please contact him or her as soon as possible. For more information on DFS, watch the documentary from PBS and click here for the Stop Predatory Gambling’s white paper on the subject.
A bill that would lower the penalties for marijuana use in Alabama was scheduled to have a public hearing, but the sponsor, Rep. Patricia Todd, was ill, so that public hearing has been postponed. ALCAP did speak at a public hearing on a bill that would allow Sunday alcohol sales in municipalities and counties where it is legal to begin at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings instead of the current 12:00 noon start time. Having alcohol available only six days a week is not enough, and now, apparently, waiting until noon to start selling it on Sundays is not enough! (Of course, I’m being facetious!) With no regard for the destructive nature of alcohol, “ Big Alcohol” will not be satisfied until unlimited alcohol (a mind-altering and addictive drug, mind you) is available 24/7 and in every square inch of the state of Alabama. And, consider this: The same will happen with marijuana and gambling. Whenever we “give in” to these addictive “products,” they always want more! And, who
suffers? — We all do, but especially families and children!
We had hoped to work out a compromise on HB277 that would protect children, while also protecting religious freedom and the separation of church and state. HB277 would require church day cares to be licensed by the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR). When Eric Johnston, our legal advisor, and Robin Mears, executive director of the Alabama Christian Educators Association, met with the VOICES for Alabama's Children representatives and others, no compromise was reached. Though our representatives worked in good faith to solve the problem, some on the other side were unwilling to negotiate in good faith. However, our recommendations have been taken to the legal department of DHR and we are awaiting their response. We hope they will agree with our propo
sals and we can solve this dilemma. However, if they do not agree, ALCAP will join other groups in opposing HB277. We will keep you updated as this process continues.
I beg you to be engaged in our culture! Know what is going on in your own community, as well as the state and national level. Stand up and speak out for everything that is good and
right, and oppose the forces of evil around us. God has called His people to be “salt & light!”
At our annual ALCAP Board meeting on Tuesday of this past week, we presented former state Senator, Hank Erwin, with this year’s "ALCAP Dan Ireland Salt & Light Award.” We are grateful for Sen. Erwin’s service to our state and, since leaving the legislature, his efforts to promote the family-values motion pictures produced by his two sons (such as “October Baby,” “Mom’s Night Out,” and most recently, “Woodlawn”).
Help ALCAP Generate Calls in Opposition to HB364
House Bill (HB) 354, Daily Fantasy Sports Bill, sponsored by Rep. Alan Boothe, will be in the House State Government Committee this Wednesday, March 8, at 3:00 p.m., in the State House Room #429.
To read about the dangers of Daily Fantasy Sports, click here for a report from Stop Predatory Gambling. Click here for a PBS documentary on Daily Fantasy Sports. Please share this info with others and call your state legislator's today!!!
Legislative Update - Week 4
On Wednesday, March 1, the Senate Tourism & Marketing Committee was supposed to hold a public hearing on SB28 (sponsored by Sen. Tom Whatley) which would legalize internet/online gambling in the form of Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS). The meeting was cancelled and "rumor has it" that this bill is not the one that the DFS companies want. So, two new DFS bills have been introduced in both the Senate (SB270, sponsored by Sen. Paul Sanford) and in the House (HB354, sponsored by Rep. Alan Boothe). This is not seasonal (or league) fantasy sports played between friends and family - this is DAILY Fantasy Sports, played by hundreds of thousands of people around the world, in which people often lose thousands of dollars every day! DFS, if legalized, would essentially put a casino in the homes and on the mobile devises of every citizen in Alabama, including children and young people.
Last year, the Attorney General's office banned DFS from being played in Alabama and the Alabama House of Representatives could not get enough votes to pass the legislation to make it legal, but now the push to legalize it has been renewed. This push to legalize DFS is taking place in state legislatures across the nation because companies, such as FanDuel and DraftKings, stand to make millions of dollars by deceiving people into believing that they can be "big winners." States that have Class III gambling (lotteries and/or casinos) have either banned DFS or they have required the companies to meet the same standards as other forms of gambling, acknowledging that DFS is, indeed, gambling.
I would encourage you to watch the documentary, "The Fantasy Sports Gamble" on the PBS program, "Frontline," (produced last year) to learn more about the addictive nature of DFS. About 43 minutes and 15 seconds into the program, there is an interview with a young man from Auburn, AL who lost $20,000 playing DFS. You can click here to watch the documentary. After watching the program, call your legislators and let them know of your opposition to SB 28, SB270 and HB354. To read more about the dangers of DFS, click here for a report from www.StopPredatoryGambling.org.
Other pro-gambling bills are "on hold" until the Governor's Advisory Council on Gaming (Gambling) makes their final report and recommendations. We anticipate that the last half of the Regular Session (which will come after the first of April) will see a flurry of activity focused on gambling. Legislators are still telling me that the vast majority of people from whom they are hearing are in favor of legalizing a state-sponsored lottery. It is important that those who oppose state-sponsored lotteries and state-sanctioned casinos, as well as Daily Fantasy Sports online/internet gambling, contact their legislators and get others to do the same.
On a different issue, ALCAP worked this week with the Alabama Christian Education Association's executive director, Robin Mears, and our own ALCAP legal advisor, Eric Johnston, to protect both children and religious freedom in this state. Rep. Pebblin Warren has introduced a bill (HB277) that will require church daycare programs to be licensed by the state. We commend Rep. Warren for wanting to protect children and their parents from "fly-by-night" daycares that are being established in the name of "bogus" or "pseudo" churches, but we also want to protect legitimate churches from government overreach into the ministries of those local churches. Mr. Johnston and Mr. Mears believe there is a better solution to the problem than to require church daycare ministries to be licensed by the state. We are working with Rep. Warren and other organizations that are concerned about this issue to come up with a bill that will accomplish both goals.
This past Wednesday, several pro-alcohol bills were presented in the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee (or as we kiddingly refer to it, "The Vice Committee"). Two of the bills were carried over, one of which would have allowed wineries to sell their product even though they were located in a dry county (on the condition that there is at least one wet municipality in the county, which means ALL dry counties, since every dry county now has at least one wet municipality). I met with the sponsor of the bill and explained that the reason municipal options were legalized was because rural citizens in these counties kept voting to "stay dry." Since wineries would be located in rural areas, this would be offensive to those living in these dry counties. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Lynn Greer, decided to reintroduce his bill as a local bill that would only apply to a county in his district. If you live in Rep. Greer's district, you need to let him know of your opposition to this legislation (which does not yet have a bill number).
The other alcohol-related bill that was carried over was a bill allowing wine tasting in grocery stores. Both the House bill and the companion Senate bill were carried over after representatives of the Alabama Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) Board told the sponsors of the bills that the ABC Board could handle the situation by existing regulations without a new law being imposed.
Two other alcohol-related bills involved community developments. One of these bills (HB47, sponsored by Rep. James Buskey) will allow a community development located in both a wet county and a dry county to sell alcohol at their restaurant, which will be located on the dry county side of the development. The other bill (HB57, sponsored by Rep. Ron Johnson) will allow Sunday alcohol sales at a community development that is located in a wet county, but does not allow Sunday alcohol sales. ALCAP called for public hearings on each bill and we explained that in both cases, they were allowing for alcohol sales in an area and on a day that the people of those counties had not voted to allow. Both bills were given a "favorable report" in spite of our request for "NO" votes, and will now go to the full House for debate and a vote.
The Senate Health Committee gave a favorable report to SB145, the Child Placing Inclusion Act, sponsored by Sen. Bill Hightower. This bill, if passed, will protect faith-based adoption agencies from being told by the government with whom they can or cannot place children for adoption. Though the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & Questioning) activists spoke out against the bill in the public hearing, the bill still received a favorable report and will go to the full Senate for a vote. The companion bill, HB24, sponsored by Rep. Rich Wingo, was given a favorable vote last week in the House Health Committee. Which ever version of the bill passes its respective house first will go to the second house for a vote. Let your legislators know that you want a "YES" vote on HB24 and/or SB145, the Child Placing Inclusion Act.
Daily Fantasy Sports continues to be an issue that we believe is gaining momentum. Sen. Tom Whatley has already introduced SB28 that would legalize this form of internet gambling and we expect it to be in committee very soon. If you live in Sen. Whatley's district, let him know of your opposition to SB28 (Daily Fantasy Sports). Josh Adams, an Auburn, AL resident is featured in a PBS documentary on Daily Fantasy Sports. Mr. Adams lost a large sum of money gambling through the Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) online companies. If you know Mr. Adams personally, I would love to talk with him. Sen. Whatley told me that he, too, would like to talk with Mr. Adams. To view the documentary, click here (Josh Adams' interview comes at the 43:15 point in the movie). To read more about the dangers of DFS, click here for a report from www.StopPredatoryGambling.org.
After the close of the legislative day on Thursday, February 23, the Governor's Advisory Council on Gaming (should be "Gambling") met once again. This time they heard from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians about what might be involved if the State should enter into a compact with the Tribe. During the discussion, it was interesting to note that Tribal leaders admitted that the difference between Class II bingo machines and Class III slot machines is negligible. This is what the Alabama Supreme Court has determined as true in several recent rulings, and that is why the so-called "electronic bingo machines" continue to be illegal in the State of Alabama. However, because the U.S. Department of Interior will not enforce the law that says Tribes cannot have any form of gambling not permitted by the state in which they are located, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians continues to operate their bingo/slot machines.
We will keep you informed as the Advisory Council continues its work. It's next meeting will be on March 9 and they will be hearing that day from lottery and casino operators and owners. We have been told that ALCAP will have an opportunity at the meeting after the next one (the date has not been decided) to present our case one last time.
Remember that we are engaged in a spiritual war and prayer is our most important weapon, so pray for us! But, also, remember that God may want to use you as an answer to prayer, so take action by contacting your legislators and letting them know where you stand on alcohol and gambling! (Click here to find your legislators and their contact information.)
Legislative Update - Week 2
The second week of the 2017 Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature is now complete. House Bill 70 (HB70), sponsored by Rep. Bill Poole passed out of committee and will go to the full House for a vote. This bill lowers the age of majority from 19 to 18 years, but it originally included an exception for tobacco products, which would remain at 19 years old. However, the original bill did not include an exception for alcohol. The sponsor agreed to offer a substitute bill with language that keeps the purchase, possession and/or use of alcoholic beverages limited to age 21 and above. We are grateful for Rep. Poole making sure that this correction was made before passing the bill out of committee.
Next week, the House Economic Development and Tourism (ED&T) Committee will hold public hearings on four alcohol-related bills and ALCAP plans to speak against each bill. HB47 will allow a community development that meets certain criteria to sell alcoholic beverages even though part of the development will be located in a dry county. According to the bill's sponsor, Rep. James Buskey, there was a mistake in last year's legislation and this bill simply corrects that error.
HB57, sponsored by Rep. Ron Johnson will allow an already existing community/commercial development district that is located in a wet county, but one that does not allow Sunday alcohol sales, to have Sunday alcohol sales within the commercial district.
HB133, sponsored by Rep. Lynn Greer, will make it legal for a winery to operate in a dry county that has at least one wet municipality. This is the most egregious of the bills in committee this coming week. Wineries are located in rural areas, and yet it is the rural populations of these dry counties that have voted not to legalize alcoholic beverages. "Big Alcohol" continues to force this mind-altering drug into the lives of individuals and families, even in areas where the citizens have voted NO to alcohol sales. Please let the members of the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee know of your opposition to HB133! CLICK HERE for a list of the committee members and their contact information.
HB134, sponsored by Rep. David Faulkner, would allow tasting of wine and beer in grocery stores that are licensed to sell alcoholic beverages. That's all we need! People drinking and then driving out of the crowded grocery store parking lots with children in the area! Again, we urge you to contact the members of the House ED&T Committee and urge them to oppose this bill, as well.
For now, gambling seems to be on the "back burner." As soon as the Governor's Advisory Council on Gaming (Gambling) completes its report, which could come before the end of the 2017 Regular Session, we expect a flurry of activity to get pro-gambling bills passed. We will keep you posted as events unfold.
Continue to pray for the legislators, lobbyists and staff of the Alabama Legislature.
Legislative Update - Week 1
All three of the bills (HB24-Adoption-Rep. Rich Wingo; HB95-Conscience- Rep. Arnold Mooney; HB96-Suicide- Rep. Mack Butler) that are being backed by ALCAP and the Alabama Pro-Life Coalition (APLC) were reported out of the Alabama House Health Committee this week, after public hearings on each.
A third bill, not on the APLC agenda, making a public policy statement that Alabama recognizes the unborn, also passed. We are asking for a "Pro-Life Day" for all of the bills to come up on the floor of the Alabama House of Representatives. Senator Bill Hightower has also dropped SB145, on adoption, a companion bill to HB24, in the Senate. Other Senators should be dropping companion bills to the other pro-life House bills in the next few days. Please ask fellow pastors and church members to thank the sponsors and Rep. April Weaver, chairperson of the House Health Committee.
Pro-gambling bills appear to be on hold until the Governor's Advisory Council on Gaming (Gambling) makes its final report. We expect this to come before the end of the 2017 Session, though the deadline for the Council's report is not until after the session has ended. ALCAP will keep you updated as information becomes available. However, a Daily Fantasy Sports bill (SB28), sponsored by Sen. Tom Whatley, has been introduced and may begin to move through the Senate before the Advisory Council reports. This bill, if passed, would essentially legalize online gambling in Alabama. For more information on this issue, click here for the document Daily Fantasy Sports Fact Sheet or visit the Stop Predatory Gambling website www.StopPredatoryGambling.org.
Rep. Bill Poole introduced a bill that lowers the age of majority from 19 to 18 years of age. There was an exception made for tobacco that kept the purchase, use and possession of tobacco products at age 19 (the current law), but nothing in the bill clarified that the purchase, use or possession of alcohol would remain at the age of 21, as the current law states. ALCAP communicated our concerns about that with the bill's sponsor, and he is having the bill redrafted to include the appropriate language to keep alcohol use, etc. at the current age of 21 and above.
There are several Sunday alcohol sale bills being introduced. All of these are local bills and are being driven by city councils and county commissioners. It is important that pastors and church leaders contact your city council members, county commissioners and state representatives and senators and urge them to oppose Sunday alcohol sales. Many of these bills will allow Sunday alcohol sales by a simple vote of the city council or county commission, without a vote of the people.
ALCAP offers congratulations to Alabama's own Jeff Sessions as our new United States Attorney General and to Luther Strange as Alabama's new U.S. Senator. Pray for these men and their families. Also, pray that God's will be done as a new Alabama Attorney General is appointed.
ALCAP Alert Dated 2/6/2017
Sen. Tom Whatley (R-Auburn) has pre-filed Senate Bill 28 (SB28). This bill will legalize online gambling in the form of Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS).
Contrary to the arguments from the big DFS companies, this is Class III gambling, which may open the door for full-fledged casino gambling in Alabama.
Unlike regular fantasy sports, played by friends and family for the length of an entire season, DFS is played online around the world and an individual can lose thousands of dollars in one day! (For the facts on DFS, visit the Stop Predatory Gambling website or click here.)
EDUCATIONAL UPDATE FROM THE SOUTHEAST LAW INSTITUTE™, INC.
To: SLI Supporters
Date: November 2016
From: A. Eric Johnston
Re: An Advisory Council on Gaming?
On October 3, 2016, Governor Robert Bentley announced he was appointing an Advisory Council on Gaming. Among the reasons reported is that it was necessary to resolve ongoing disagreements over electronic bingo, to resolve disputes and controversy that have existed for years on gambling, to avoid selective enforcement of gambling laws, to settle a lack of consensus among the judiciary and determine best practices from other states. In the Governor’s wisdom, all of this needs to be reviewed and then presented to the people for a vote. In other words, the Governor is now working for gambling interests in this state and he expects the Council to advise a repeal of that provision in the Alabama Constitution which prohibits games of chance. In the process, the Governor will discover a new source of income for the state - taxation of the poor.
For those of us who have been involved in the gambling issue, the Governor’s approach is completely transparent. Possibly, he has been duped by the gamblers, but more than likely, he has chosen to work with them to legalize gambling on the pretext of resolving conflict in the state and increasing revenue.
The apparent genesis of this was the case of State v. $223, 405.86, et al. The trial court found there was selective enforcement of gambling laws. The Governor said there is a “quilt work of local constitutional amendments around the state.” He suggests this is the basis for the dispute which needs to be resolved.
As a matter of fact and law, the Alabama Supreme Court reversed the trial court case. It has ruled consistently in a number of cases in recent years that it is only the gamblers who are attempting to perpetrate illegal slot machine gambling in the name of bingo who dispute our laws. The cases are not inconsistent and there is no dispute among the judiciary. The law is absolutely clear. The Supreme Court ordered on March 31, 2016, that once and for all law enforcement and gamblers should realize there is no question in the law and the law must be enforced. The Governor has ignored this finding.
The problem is, however, on September 5, 2015, Governor Bentley issued Executive Order 13 which told the Attorney General, who had been prosecuting cases statewide, to desist and allow local law enforcement to proceed. As a consequence of that action, Milton McGregor reopened VictoryLand on September 13, 2016. The local DA and sheriff refused to follow the Supreme Court’s instructions and have failed to investigate and prosecute clear criminal acts. It is a charade by the Governor to suggest that the operations in VictoryLand are questionable. In fact, he admitted they were illegal in a recent letter, joined in by the Attorney General, to VictoryLand.
The Supreme Court further ruled that Executive Order 13 has no effect on the Attorney General. It is his responsibility to enforce the laws. If local law enforcement refused to do so, it is incumbent on the Attorney General to do so. The only catch is that the Attorney General does not have the manpower, i.e., state troopers, to do the legwork necessary to enforce his investigation. The Governor has refused to provide that assistance to him.
So, you see, the Governor has found a way to thwart proper law enforcement of criminal activity in the state, while at the same time suggesting that a council is necessary to resolve these very difficult issues. It is complete fraud, deceit and subterfuge on behalf of the Governor. It works only to the benefit of the gamblers. We know from past legislative experience that the findings of this Council will result in the need to amend Alabama’s Constitution and to repeal its criminal gambling laws, while at the same time passing new laws to legalize gambling in the State of Alabama.
Perhaps, Governor Bentley does not believe the people in the state understand this. His very special “Council” will lead the way to broad, sunlit uplands of understanding. Such demagoguery by the morally failed leader of this state will lead only to a dark valley of deceit and crime which will injure not only individuals and families, but the moral fabric of the state.
Eagle Forum of Alabama
A. Eric Johnston
Southeast Law Institute
An 'advisory council' on gaming?
Guest Voices, www.al.com
October 20, 2016
By Eunie Smith, Eagle Forum of Alabama; Joe Godfrey, ALCAP; and A. Eric Johnston, Southeast Law Institute
On October 3, 2016, Governor Robert Bentley announced he was appointing an advisory council on Gaming. Among the reasons reported is that it was necessary to resolve ongoing disagreements over electronic bingo, to resolve disputes and controversy that have existed for years on gambling, to avoid selective enforcement of gambling laws, to settle a lack of consensus among the judiciary and determine best practices from other states.
In the Governor's wisdom, all of this needs to be reviewed and then presented to the people for a vote. In other words, the Governor is now working for gambling interests in this state and he expects the Council to advise a repeal of that provision in the Alabama Constitution which prohibits games of chance. In the process, the Governor will discover a new source of income for the state - taxation of the poor.
For those of us who have been involved in the gambling issue, the Governor's approach is completely transparent. Possibly, he has been duped by the gamblers, but more than likely, he has chosen to work with them to legalize gambling on the pretext of resolving conflict in the state and increasing revenue.
The apparent genesis of this was the case of State v. $223, 405.86, et al. The trial court found there was selective enforcement of gambling laws. The Governor said there is a "quilt work of local constitutional amendments around the state." He suggests this is the basis for the dispute which needs to be resolved.
SB3 died in the Senate today as the Senate voted NOT to concur with the House version of the bill. As we suspected, when the House amended the bill to exclude casinos, that is not what the pro-gambling people wanted.
The truth finally came out and is reflected in the attached vote count with 7 for concurrence (YES) and 23 against concurrence (NO). There were different motives for voting NO, but at this point we are celebrating the defeat of pro-gambling legislation in Alabama!
Please contact the Senators that voted NO to concur and thank them. Also, urge them to vote in favor of the BP Settlement, so that gambling will not be needed to solve the Medicaid problem in our state.
ALCAP Alert Dated 8/17/2016
Senate Tourism Committee reconvened this afternoon (Wednesday, August 17) to reconsider SB26 (Constitutional Amendment to require the Governor to sign a compact with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians) and SB34 (similar to Sen. McClendon's lottery bill, SB11, which includes electronic gambling devices, but reallocates where the money goes). ALCAP opposes both of these gambling bills, as well as the other gambling bills voted out of committee yesterday, but both were voted out of committee by voice vote.
Full Senate is currently debating SB11, Sen. McClendon's lottery bill that also allows video lottery terminals at the 4 dog tracks throughout the state. Pray for gambling opponents as they stand firm and continue to contact your State Senator urging a "NO" vote on all pro-gambling bills!
Click here for talking points you can use when speaking with your legislator.
If you would like more information place your cursor over the "Current Issues" tab to the left then click on the "Gambling" tab or place your cursor over the "Links" tab to the left then click on the "Gambling" tab. You may also visit the Stop Predatory Gambling website at www.StopPredatoryGambling.org.
ALCAP ALERT Dated 8/16/2016
ALCAP legal advisor, Eric Johnston, speaking at the public hearing on the five proposed Senate Bills presented to the Senate Tourism Committee.
Senate Tourism Committee just voted to advance only two of the five pro-gambling bills to the full Senate. SB3, the Governor's pure lottery bill and SB11, Senator McClendon's bill that allows electronic video lottery terminals at the four dog tracks throughout the state and according to the Attorney General could lead to casino gambling, were the two bills that passed by voice vote (no roll call vote).
Now, those two bills will be debated on the floor of the Senate, possibly as early as tomorrow. Pray and contact your State Senator to urge him or her to oppose SB3 and SB11!
Click here for talking points you can use when speaking with your legislator.
If you would like more information place your cursor over the "Current Issues" tab to the left then click on the "Gambling" tab or place your cursor over the "Links" tab to the left then click on the "Gambling" tab. You may also visit the Stop Predatory Gambling website at www.StopPredatoryGambling.org.
ALCAP ALERT Dated 8/15/2016
With the Alabama Legislature convening today, Monday, August 15, for a Special Session to discuss legalizing a state-sponsored lottery in Alabama, the Senate Tourism Committee meeting has been scheduled. The gambling bills are expected to be in the Senate Tourism Committee on Tuesday, August 16, at 10:30 a.m. in room 325 (time and location subject to change).
I am appealing to pastors and denominational leaders to be at the Alabama State House on Tuesday morning between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. to visit with your Senator and House Member. Even though the Senate Tourism Committee will not meet until 10:30 a.m., I want to encourage you to visit the offices of your House Member and State Senator, encouraging him/her to oppose all pro-gambling bills or not vote at all. Proponents will need 3/5 of the House and 3/5 of the Senate to vote in favor of a constitutional amendment, so abstaining will have the same impact as a no vote.
The gambling proponents will be at the State House in large numbers, so we need pastors, denominational leaders and any key business people from each district to be there and putting pressure on the legislators to oppose gambling. If you cannot come to Montgomery on Tuesday, come on Wednesday or Thursday. We need as many people as possible walking the halls and talking to legislators about how gambling is a failed government policy.
Click here for talking points you can use when speaking with your legislator.
If you would like more information place your cursor over the "Current Issues" tab to the left then click on the "Gambling" tab or place your cursor over the "Links" tab to the left then click on the "Gambling" tab. You may also visit the Stop Predatory Gambling website at www.StopPredatoryGambling.org.
ALCAP ALERT Dated 7/29/2016
Governor Bentley announced this morning that he is calling for the Special Session of the Alabama Legislature to consider a constitutional amendment allowing Alabama to vote on a state-sponsored lottery will begin August 15.
2) Order the EDUCATION EDITION of a new documentary entitled, "OUT OF LUCK." Be sure to order the EDUCATION EDITION because that version drops the sound when foul language is used. The original version contains some offensive language at different times during the movie. The movie is 1 hour and 45 minutes, but every church and every legislator in Alabama should see this movie, so invite your legislators to watch the movie with you. We have purchased about 50 copies of the EDUCATION VERSION of the "OUT OF LUCK" DVD and if you want to order from us, the cost is $24.99 + shipping (our cost; ALCAP will get nothing out of this; the education version costs more than the original version which can be purchased on amazon.com or iTunes). Click here to contact the ALCAP office to request a copy of the education edition of the video. If you would like to order the education edition directly from Amazon, click here.
Remember, we will not be voting on just selling lottery tickets in Alabama. Several years ago the Alabama Supreme Court defined a lottery as "any game of chance." That means that if the people of Alabama pass a Constitutional Amendment legalizing a lottery, the Alabama Legislature can come back and pass enabling legislation that legalizes casinos throughout the state.
Also, the Legislature will come back every year wanting to expand the gambling options because people get addicted and want more options, and because the revenue from each form of gambling diminishes over time. This is what has happened in every state that has passed lottery legislation!
Southern Baptist leader questions Gov. Bentley's motives for lottery push
By Greg Garrison | firstname.lastname@example.org
July 28, 2016
The Rev. Joe Godfrey, executive director of ALCAP, will lead churches in the fight against a state lottery in Alabama.
Southern Baptists have been fighting gambling since the days of brush arbor revivals across the South.
They remain some of the staunchest opponents of gambling, believing it promotes immorality and hurts the poor.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, who took office flouting his reputation as a staunch Southern Baptist upholder of morality, has now called for a special session to consider a state lottery.
The minister assigned to lead the Southern Baptist fight against gambling in Alabama questions Bentley's motives.
"Either his morals are not as strong as he claims they are, which we've already seen, or this is a distraction from the scandal," said the Rev. Joe Godfrey, executive director of the Alabama Citizens Action Program, an anti-gambling lobby supported by the Alabama Baptist Convention.
"I've talked to a lot a lot of pastors who are fed up with him," said Godfrey, a former president of the state Baptist convention.
Regardless of Bentley's motives, Godfrey is gearing up for yet another fight against lottery proposals.
"It's a regressive tax on the poor," Godfrey said. "It's deceiving people into thinking it's their ticket out of poverty. They're going to advertise it and sell lottery tickets in poor neighborhoods, and people will spend their entire paychecks. Most of those tickets will end up in the trash."
Then the state's social services agencies will be beset by chronic gamblers and the social problems they cause, including increased Medicaid rolls, Godfrey said. Instead of fixing Medicaid funding, it will create a bigger drain on state services, he said.
"You're not going to sell enough lottery tickets to sustain it," he said. "It's not producing wealth. It's draining money out of the economy. When people buy lottery tickets, they're not buying goods and services. They're not paying sales taxes. The state will have to raise taxes."
If the state votes to overturn its constitutional ban on lotteries, a push for casinos will be next, Godfrey believes.
"If people vote to allow a lottery, the legislature can come back and put in place casinos," Godfrey said.
"I think it's smoke and mirrors. I think the ultimate goal is to get casinos. They'll come back and say the lottery revenue is not coming in like we thought it would; we need casinos, slots, keno, terminals. It'll be a constant battle from now on."
When he was pastor of First Baptist Church of Pleasant Grove, Godfrey had an older couple in the congregation who went to a Mississippi casino and gambled away everything they had, including the mortgage to their house. Gambling addicts then often turn to churches for assistance, he said.
"If we had casinos, they will go on a regular basis," he said. "They will go every day and sit and gamble all day and lose everything they have."
While many in Alabama travel to other states to gamble, it's not as much a drain as if gambling were more available closer to home, Godfrey believes.
Gambling revenues mainly benefit casino owners, he said.
"The gambling bosses will own this state," Godfrey said.
"A very small amount goes to state government," he said. "When they opened Birmingham Race Course, we were told Birmingham City Schools would never have to worry about revenues again. You see how that turned out. If you look at schools in Mississippi, they are at the bottom of the pile. It doesn't help their schools. Then people don't have money to spend on goods and services when they lose all their money gambling. You'll see more of that."
Although churches staunchly opposed past efforts to create a state lottery, a major factor in keeping them out of Alabama, church opposition has faded as gambling becomes more acceptable, Godfrey admits.
Even Baptist and Methodist churches that once held the line on gambling now see prominent members going across state lines to buy lottery tickets and play at casinos and questioning the traditional moral stance against it.
So the front line of defense in the past now may be vulnerable.
"It's going to be the churches that have to fight it," Godfrey said. "Churches don't have the money and reserves they did in the late 1990s. The recession has hit them hard."
Churches will be hit again if a lottery passes, he believes. "When gambling addicts go broke, they're going to come to the churches looking for help," Godfrey said.
Now Republicans looking for alternatives to income, sales and property tax increases are more likely to resort to a lottery as an alternative, he said.
"This is not going to be good for the economy," Godfrey said. "It sucks money out of the state. You have to raise taxes to sustain services. It's the worst way to raise money. It's still a tax. It's a regressive tax on the poor."
The real solution to state budget problems is courageous leadership, Godfrey said.
"We need to come up with a tax plan that's fair and equitable and cut the budget," Godfrey said. "If you're depending on gambling, you're in trouble. Gambling does not solve economic problems, it makes them worse. When the recession hit, Nevada had some of the highest unemployment rates, foreclosure rates, suicide rates. People stopped going out there to gamble when they didn't have money. Our budget situation is bad, but It'd be worse if we had a lottery."
States that use lottery money for college scholarships have had to raise academic standards for earning the scholarships, which means that children who attend poor schools with few resources often have a lesser chance of getting scholarships, he said.
"In Georgia, poor people are buying lottery tickets to pay for rich kids to go to college," he said.
"It's like Robin Hood in reverse. It's robbing from the poor to give to the rich."
Lottery income also pays for advertising that targets the poor, he said. "The government is asking citizens to invest in worthless lottery tickets," Godfrey said. "It's just sad."
Click here for information from Stop Predatory Gambling. Dr. Joe Godfrey is on the Board of Directors of this national organization.
Title loan interest rate cap gets hearing
Brian Lyman, Montgomery Advertiser
May 20, 2015
A House committee Wednesday morning heard arguments for and against a bill to regulate interest charged on title loans.
No vote was taken on the measure, sponsored by Rep. Rod Scott, (D) Fairfield, and its chances of passage are slim with only a handful of days left in the session. That point was noted by advocates of the bill, which has almost two-thirds of the House membership signed on as cosponsors.
“We’re looking at a long off-season,” Stephen Stetson, a policy analyst for Alabama Arise, a group that works on poverty issues, told the House Financial Services Committee. “It’s a shame 67 cosponsors, which is enough to get (a bill) passed on the floor, wasn’t enough to get it through committee.”
Scott’s bill, similar to legislation aimed at payday loans, would cap title loan interest rates at 36 percent APR and provide for regulations for the disposition of property pledged under loans.
Under current law, title loan companies can charge upwards of 300 percent APR on title loan transactions. Critics of title loan and payday lending consider the practice usury and say it preys on the poor. The industries say they provide credit in areas generally under-served by traditional lenders and cannot survive under the strict rate cap.
“The most difficult part of this issue deals with interest rates and the amount that should be financed or considered,” Scott said. “We were very diligent in working with the Banking (Department) in coming up with a framework.”
Industry representatives, however, said the 36 percent rate cap was a deal breaker.
“It’s not reform,” said Gina Dearborn, speaking on behalf of Title Max. “It would completely put us out of business. 36 percent is not something we can live with.”
Advocates of reform say that the short-term loans trap the poor in a cycle of debt.
Joe Godfrey, executive director of the Alabama Citizens Action Program, a socially conservative group, said bad title loan operators “preyed” on individuals.
Godfrey said government has a role “to protect (citizens) against foreign and domestic enemies. This would be a domestic enemy.”
The case of Glenn Bynum and Larry Gipson v. City of Oneonta was argued before the Alabama Supreme Court on November 6, 2014. The case involves a question of a wet/dry municipal option election and an important principle of law.
In 1984, the Legislature passed § 28-2A-1, 1975 Code of Alabama, a “general law” applicable to all 67 counties, providing that municipalities with 7,000 or more population could decide through municipal option elections whether to sell alcohol within their city limits. Subsection 3 of the statute explained the cutoff was to protect the public welfare due to complications that arise from alcohol consumption, viz., domestic abuse, DUI, crime, etcetera.
The facts of this case demonstrated a history of willful legislative abuse in passing the statute at issue. In 2002, the Alabama Legislature passed a local law providing that towns in Cherokee County with populations of 1,300-1,500 (only the Town of Cedar Bluff qualified) could have wet/dry elections. This law was in conflict with the general law. The Legislature asked the Alabama Supreme Court if the bill was constitutional, who explained that it was not. Nevertheless, the Legislature passed the law. A lawsuit was filed and the trial court held it unconstitutional. On appeal, the Supreme Court found a jurisdictional issue and sent it back to the trial court. The issue was resolved and the case was renewed. Before the second effort could be tried again, in 2009, the Alabama Legislature amended the general law providing that in every county except Blount, Clay and Randolph Counties, towns with 1,000 persons could have wet/dry elections. This mooted the Cherokee County case.
In passing the 2009 amendment to § 28-2A-1, the Legislature violated several Alabama constitutional provisions, viz., though introduced as a general law, it was passed as a local law due to excluding three counties, it was not advertised as a local law and the bill had two subjects. Notwithstanding the Governor’s veto for the latter reason, the Legislature passed the law. During the legislative process, the law was amended eight times, most of which had to do with what counties to include and the population of a qualifying city. It was clear the bill would not pass without limitations. The most egregious violation of law was the excluding of three counties without a proper reason from being able to vote as the other 64 counties would. This was a violation of citizen’s equal protection rights under the United States Constitution.
From 2002 until 2009 the Alabama Legislature was acting at the behest of big alcohol interests to establish the sale of their products in every nook and cranny in the State of Alabama, without regard to the health, safety and welfare of the public, and in disregard of the laws mentioned. The Legislature knowingly acted unlawfully in this concerted and protracted effort. As a result, the law was challenged in court by Bynum and Gipson.
These issues were presented to the Blount County Circuit Court who followed the usual rules of statutory construction, ordering removal of the offensive constitutional language, viz., deleting the three counties who had been omitted, thereby making the law applicable to all 67 counties, and upholding the statute. In other words, alcohol could be on the ballot of every small town in every county of Alabama. The injustice of this is that the rule of statutory construction is oblivious to the intentionally unlawful legislative acts to achieve something through the court that the Legislature could not achieve on its own.
The arguments presented to the Alabama Supreme Court requested the court to mitigate that rule so as to recognize the unlawful intentions of the Legislature. The only way the Legislature could pass this bill was to exclude the three counties. If that is unconstitutional (which it is) and the legislative intent was to exclude them (which it was), then the law is unconstitutional. Put another way, there were only three options for the possibility of this law: (1) pass it excluding the three counties [which it should not do]; (2) not pass it due to the opposition by the three counties [which it would not do]; or (3) pass it in its unconstitutional condition and let the court correct the unlawful action [which it did]. The latter is not a legitimate option, but it is the reality of the existing rule of statutory construction.
The circuit court is not to be blamed, because it ruled in conformity with existing law. There appears to be no legal precedent for guidance to courts in situations like this. On appeal, the Alabama Supreme Court was requested to find the entire law unconstitutional. The court was asked not to do what the Legislature could not do and, certainly, not to be complicit through a judicial slight of hand to participate in the denial of equal protection rights to voters. We are hopeful the Alabama Supreme Court will further define the rules of statutory construction so that a travesty like this will not happen again. We are a nation of laws, not men.
Finally, if this law is found unconstitutional, we will go back to the previous law, that is, only municipalities with 7,000 or more citizens can have alcohol municipal option elections. All of the small towns who have voted under this unconstitutional law to authorize alcohol sales must stop those sales. That will be a good thing. Otherwise, any changes to the law must completely start over in the Legislature. It is unlikely the current Legislature would go down this path again.
I represented Messrs Bynum and Gipson in this case and also parties in the second Cherokee County case. I appreciate the opportunity to work with these fine citizens who are standing up for their communities. They are to be commended.
What the Election Reveals About Us, and Why We Vote as We Do
WEDNESDAY • November 5, 2014
Campaigning over the weekend, President Obama said, “The American people are with us on all the big issues.” He continued, “You know it. I know it. The polls show it.”
Yet the midterm election yesterday did not affirm President Obama’s statement. In fact, yesterday’s election is what political scientists classify as a “wave election.” The “wave” became evident early on Tuesday evening and it continued throughout election night as Republicans won key seats in the Senate. Even as some elections are still yet to be called, it is clear that the Republican Party has gained control of the United States Senate and now holds control of both the House and the Senate for the first time in eight years .
Furthermore, the pickup in the Senate was even beyond what most Republican analysts had estimated. With Senatorial elections in the states of Louisiana and Alaska still pending, the Republican Party has already picked up seven seats. This is a massive change for America’s political system. Coming in the sixth year of President Obama’s administration, this midterm election is a massive check upon his presidential power and will inevitably be seen as a political judgment upon the President’s leadership. This is due to the fact that the President of the United States is also seen as the symbolic head of his political party – in this case the Democratic Party.
Key Senate elections were won by Republicans in the states of West Virginia, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, and also in the state of North Carolina. The change of party control in the Senate will mean that the Republicans now hold key decision-making positions, especially in terms of the key committee chairmanships. Furthermore, the Senate’s very important constitutional role in the confirmation of presidential appointees will also be a major factor in the last two years of the Obama administration. In short, the next two years are going to be very politically interesting.
Claiming victory last night in his own Senatorial contest in Kentucky, Senator Mitch McConnell, who is also now the majority leader, pledged to work with President Obama in a bipartisan consensus where that is possible. Today President Obama is expected to address the nation with his response to the midterm elections. Americans are going to be watching in order to see if indeed the President of the United States and a Republican-controlled Congress can govern together on issues in which there might actually be common concern.
Yet yesterday’s election results also point to the continuing and deepening partisan divide in America. Christians watching this must understand that this partisan divide is not merely a political issue—it is a worldview issue. What divides these two parties is not primarily personalities or regionalism. Instead, what divides these two parties are their visions of political stability, morality, and even what it means to aim for human flourishing. Both parties represent competing worldviews and the most loyal members of each party recognize this reality. What separates these parties from one another are the answers they provide to such basic questions as the meaning of human life, our understanding of morality and even our understanding of marriage.
In last night’s wave election, several very strategic governorships were also on the line. Republicans won key contests in states including Florida, Iowa, Kansas, and even the state of Massachusetts—one of most deeply democratic states in the entire nation. Yet there were other very important issues faced by voters in respective states. In the state of Oregon, for example, voters supported a measure legalizing marijuana. This comes even after the Governor of Colorado warned other states that they should avoid the kind of reckless experimentation that he suggested his own state had engaged in by legalizing recreational marijuana two years ago. In Washington, D.C. voters approved an initiative legalizing recreational marijuana. Yet this vote will not affect the vast areas within the district that are controlled by the federal government. Further, since the D.C. government is ultimately under the control of Congress, Congress may also intervene in this situation. Voters in Alaska also passed a similar proposition known as Measure 2. Meanwhile, an effort to legalize so-called medical marijuana narrowly failed in the state of Florida. It gained more than 50% of the vote but that was short of the 60% that was necessary in order to affect the change.
On the issue of abortion, the states of Colorado and North Dakota turned back personhood amendments—amendments that would have criminalized any assault upon an unborn fetus. In the case of both states, this was a significant setback for the pro-life cause. But the pro-life cause won a huge victory in the state of Tennessee where voters approved Amendment 1—an amendment to that state’s constitution that would allow significant restrictions upon the availability of abortion. This is especially important since Tennessee had become a so-called ‘destination state’ for abortions in the American Mid-South.
The vote in Tennessee, however, was also was deeply revealing. The vote on Amendment 1 demonstrated a very significant moral divide, political divide, and thus a worldview divide between rural and urban voters in that state. Urban voters overwhelmingly voted against Amendment 1 and thus in favor of unrestricted abortion rights. On the other hand, voters in rural Tennessee overwhelmingly voted for Amendment 1. This simply affirms something that political scientists have known for a very long time—rural voters generally vote in a far more conservative pattern than urban or Metropolitan voters. This is in some respects due to the fact that cities tend to draw together persons with more liberal worldviews. At the same time, it also reflects the fact that cities have a liberalizing effect. Sociologists regularly indicate that persons who move from a rural to a more Metropolitan environment also shift their political opinions. This tells us that worldview is also at least partly dependent upon context.
In response to the election, Jason Weeden and Robert Kurzban published a rather amazing article in the op-ed pages of the New York Times. They began that article stating,
“As America completes another costly, polarized and exhausting election cycle, it’s commonplace to characterize our society as being divided into warring tribes of liberals and conservatives. But this view oversimplifies the causes of our political differences.”
Their argument continues,
“Most people aren’t ideologically pure, and most don’t derive their opinions from abstract ideologies and principles. People are more strongly influenced by the effects of policies on themselves, their families and their wider social networks. Their views, in short, are often based on self-interest.”
What should Christians think about their argument? Should we accept the fact that self-interest actually guides political decisions? From a biblical perspective, Christians ought to recognize that this is indeed the case. We should expect that in a fallen world it would be nearly impossible for any of us to escape the type of moral calculus that includes our own self-interest. And as these researchers make very clear, self-interest is not limited to an individual perspective, but to our family, to our group, or to our community.
Weeden and Kurzban continue:
“This point may seem obvious, but it is overlooked by many political scientists who focus on other explanations: parents and peers, schools and universities, political parties and leaders, and that abstract and nebulous catchall, ‘values.’ But the most straightforward explanation, demographics, is also the most persuasive.”
These observations should deeply interest Christians as we consider how political opinions and political decisions are formed. The authors further state,
“Self-interest is not limited to economics. People who want to have sex but don’t at the moment want babies are especially likely to support policies that ensure access to birth control and abortion. Immigrants favor generous immigration policies. Lesbians and gay men are far more likely to oppose discrimination based on sexual orientation. . . . Those who do best under meritocracy — people who have a lot of education and excel on tests — are far more likely to want to reduce group-based preferences, like affirmative action.”
“A focus on self-interest helps explain why three-quarters of people who went to church as children don’t attend church in their 20s. The young people most likely to abandon the church are those engaging in the kinds of lifestyles — involving alcohol, recreational drugs, premarital sex and nonmarital cohabitation — that religious conservatives condemn.”
Weeden and Kurzban are pointing to something that every Christian leader, parent, or pastor must understand. On the one hand, we recognize that worldview determines behavior—what we believe is inevitably played out in our lives. But we must also recognize, as Weeden and Kurzban point out, that not only does our worldview determine behavior but the contrary is also true – our behavior often affects our worldview.
The illustration used by Weeden and Kurzban is very instructive. Young people who are involved in premarital sex, non-marital cohabitation, and recreational drugs develop a worldview to justify their activities. Of course, this is what all sinners do. Sinners want to justify their sin and in order to accomplish this they try to realign their worldview in order to create moral justification for their behavior. Christians need to understand that Weeden and Kurzban are onto something real here; not only does worldview determine behavior but behavior can determine worldview.
These two researchers are primarily interested in how this plays out in the political sphere. But Christians looking at the same article need to understand that something deeply biblical is being affirmed here. As the researchers very specifically point out, when young people get involved in what the Bible identifies as sinful activities, their worldview often shifts in an attempt to justify their actions—thus leaving the worldview commitments they may have inherited from their church and from their parents and adopting a new set of worldview presuppositions that are at peace with their behavior. As Weeden and Kurzban write, “Despite their early socialization, as adults start making their own decisions, their religion and politics usually align with their interests.”
The results of this midterm election will give intelligent Christians a great deal to think about. But when it comes to the larger issues at stake, the midterm election is simply one episode in a very long story, a story of political engagement that should lead Christians to continue to think ever more seriously about the issues that are really at stake.
ALABAMA LEGISLATIVE RECAP 2013
The Alabama Legislature’s 2013 Regular Session saw a significant victory
in the passage of House Bill (HB) 57,
sponsored by Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin.
This bill, signed into law by Gov. Robert Bentley, requires abortion
clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers. Pro-abortionists opposed this bill on the
basis that, as they put it, abortion clinics in the state will not be able to
meet such high standards and will have to close. Ironically, for years pro-abortionists have
argued that if abortions are outlawed, women would be forced to have “back-alley”
abortions in unsafe conditions, yet they strongly opposed this bill, which is
meant to protect women. Their opposition
even resulted in threats against Rep. McClurkin. But thankfully, the bill was passed in spite
of their opposition and threats.
Another bill supported by ALCAP, Senate
Bill (SB) 4, sponsored by Sen. Gerald Allen, and known as the “Foreign Law
Bill,” passed through both houses and was signed into law by Gov. Bentley. This bill makes the application of laws
outside the state of Alabama and the United States illegal in Alabama Courts
and it protects the rights of Alabama and U.S. citizens.
For the second year, the Legislature failed to pass a law that would have increased the penalty
for possession of electronic gambling devices from a Class-A Misdemeanor
to a Class-C Felony. In spite of efforts
by the Attorney General’s office and the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bryan Taylor, to
get the bill passed, the votes were not enough to stop a filibuster in the
Senate, led by Sen. Gerald Dial.
After several years of attempting to get a “home brew” bill passed,
advocates were finally successful in the 2013 Session. HB9,
sponsored by Rep. Mac McCutcheon, passed both houses and was signed into law by
Gov. Bentley. This new law allows
individuals to brew their own beer at home and store up to 15 gallons of beer,
wine or mead, and to transport up to 10 gallons to festivals and competitions. ALCAP was the sole voice in opposition to
Overall, ALCAP monitored 137 bills relating to: Alcohol and Other Drugs
(65 bills, or 47% of the bills we monitored); Tobacco (10 bills, 7%); Family
& Marriage (12 bills, 9%); Pro-Life (5 bills, 4%); Religious Liberty (7
bills, 5%); Gambling (8 bills, 6%); Sex Crimes (11 bills, 8%); Other (19 bills,
May 8, 2013
In a surprise move, last night (May 7), Senator Gerald Dial moved to bring up the Home Brew Bill (HB9) out of order on the floor of the Senate. After the vote was taken, the bill passed 18-7, with 1 abstaining and 9 not voting. We have attached the voting record for each Senator. I encourage you to contact your Senator and thank him/her for voting NO or for not voting, and express your disappointment to those who voted YES. Those who are pastors might also want to let your congregation know how their Senator voted.
The bill now goes to the Governor's desk for his signature. I want to thank all of you who contacted your House Members earlier in the session and your Senators recently and asked them to oppose this bill.
April 25, 2013
Sen. Dial plans to filibuster SB446, a bill that raises the penalty on "big time" gambling from a Class A Misdemeanor to a Class C Felony. Everyone in his district needs to call him NOW! Respectfully ask him to NOT filibuster SB446!
His secretary is Ruth, and she is very sweet, so be nice, but be firm!
Please get as many people as possible to call Sen. Dial's office this morning (April 25)!
The phone number for Sen. Dial's office in Montgomery is 334.242.7874.
April 19, 2013
With only 8 legislative days left in the current 2013 Alabama Legislative Session, Sen. Bryan Taylor (R-Prattville) has introduced a bill, Senate Bill 446 (SB446) that will raise the penalty for organized gambling in Alabama from a Class A Misdemeanor to a Class C Felony. This increased penalty should help to deter anyone from setting up an electronic bingo casino and keep machine manufacturers out of Alabama.
This bill, if passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives in Montgomery and signed by the Governor, will stop illegal casinos from popping up in our neighborhoods, near our churches, schools and throughout the state. It will help to put the gambling issue in Alabama to rest once and for all!
A similar bill was introduced last year and did not get passed. We have an opportunity to get it passed this year, even though the time left in this Session is very short. This is why we need your help! There are 4-5 senators who we understand are unwilling to vote cloture on a possible filibuster. If churches will begin to "flood" the phone lines, email boxes and "snail mail" boxes of each State Senator, andcourteously ask them to vote cloture on a possible filibuster, and then vote for passage of SB446, we can make a huge difference!
These gambling establishments and machine manufacturers continue to set up operations even though they know they will be shut down because the penalty is so small. They consider the relatively small fine associated with a misdemeanor to be the "cost of doing business," while they steal millions of dollars from the pockets of individuals who do not realize that "the house ALWAYS wins!" Evidence is overwhelming that the machines are often rigged and they are designed to get people addicted to gambling. The breaking of at least four of the Ten Commandments are involved in gambling and, given the addictive nature of gambling, especially in the area of electronic slot machines, the Bible clearly teaches that we should not put a stumbling block in the path of others.
Please follow the link to find your senator and contact him/her today! Be respectful and courteous (especially to the secretaries who may take your message), but be firm in asking them to vote YES to cloture of a possible filibuster and YES to passage of SB446. Act NOW because time is running out!
Not concerned about illegal casinos? See this video from former Governor John Patterson talking about the assassination of his father, former Alabama Attorney General Elect Albert Patterson, who was gunned down in the streets of Phenix City, AL after winning the AG election based on his promise to end gambling in that city. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0YXdXemEew
March 25, 2013
The 2013 Session of the Alabama Legislature is at the half-way point and will be on Spring Break the week of March 25-29. This frees up a little time for me to give you an update and identify several specific actions you can take in order to make a difference in our state.
House Bill (HB9) and Senate Bill (SB171) - "Homebrew Bill" - Both the House version and Senate version of these companion bills have passed out of committees in their respective houses. HB9 is on the Special Order Calendar in the House of Representatives for April 2 when the Legislators return from their Spring Break. A similar bill failed to pass two years ago in the House, but passed in the House last year. It did not pass the Senate because the Session ended before they could get to it. Many media outlets and a few pastors have questioned why ALCAP opposes this bill, which if it passes and is signed into law by Governor Bentley will make Alabama the last state in the Union to legalize the home-brewing of beer, wine and mead (Mississippi just passed a home-brewing bill, so that makes Alabama the last state to do so). As I have explained to everyone who asks, we oppose this legislation for several reasons:
ALCAP opposes all alcohol liberalization bills. The United Kingdom (UK) has been loosening their restrictions on alcohol for the last 4-5 decades and today they are trying to rein in the out-of-control use of alcohol that is causing major social problems in their island nation. When Prohibition was repealed in the United States in the 1930s, controls on alcohol (a mind-altering and addictive drug) were left up to the individual states. As states, including Alabama, have relaxed their restrictions, alcohol-related problems have been continually rising just as they did in the UK. In 2006, the latest statistics from the U. S. Centers for Disease Control show that alcohol-related problems cost Americans $223.5 billion, and that expenditure is repeated and increasing each year. Home-brewing is yet another step in making alcohol more available to more people in more ways.
Children in the homes of home-brewers will grow up with alcohol (a mind-altering, addictive drug) readily available to them. Pre-teens typically get their first taste of alcohol in the home. While a parent may miss a can from the six-pack of beer in the refrigerator, will that parent miss "swigs" of home-brewed beer taken from gallon jugs stored in the house?
How will home-brewed beer be policed? There will be no licensing involved in the law as the bill currently reads, and up to 15 gallons can be stored in one's home each quarter of the year (60 gallons cumulatively in 12 months). If home-brewers are currently breaking the law (as they have all but admitted to doing in public hearings), how will we know they are obeying the law as far as the amounts they are storing if this bill should become law? And, what about public health issues regarding the production and storing of such quantities of an alcoholic beverage? All of these are questions that are yet to be answered.
The bill allows for up to 10 gallons to be transported to festivals and tasting contests. How will gallon jugs with screw-on tops impact the open container law in Alabama that makes possession of open containers of alcoholic beverages in one's automobile illegal?
Finally, there is the issue of "incrementalism." Each year, home-brewers could possibly return to the State Legislature seeking to store and/or transport larger quantities of their drug. It is also possible that distillers will begin to ask for permission to produce distilled spirits (hard liquor, or "moonshine") on the basis that "if people can brew beer and mead, or produce wine at home, why can't we set up a still in our house or back yard?"
Several local bills have been introduced that, if passed will allow the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sunday. Again, this is another step toward loosening any and all restrictions on this mind-altering and addictive drug (ethyl alcohol). Six days a week of selling alcohol are apparently not enough - those who stand to profit from alcohol sales want to be able to sell it seven days a week. I've talked with families who appreciate not having to be around people drinking while eating out on Sunday. Has alcohol become such a focus in our culture that people cannot take off at least one day each week from purchasing and drinking it? A few legislators have indicated that they are opposed to these local "Sunday alcohol sales" bills, but they are not hearing from Christians and churches opposing the bills. (I have, specifically, heard from Representatives Steve Hurst and Becky Nordgren, who are asking for support from the churches in opposing Sunday alcohol sales in their districts.) They are hearing from city council members and county commissioners, who are looking only at the immediate revenue they think will come to their communities from adding a few hours a week of alcohol sales, but who discount the higher cost that will come because of increased alcohol use. However, they are not hearing from people these legislators told me they thought would support their opposition. Please take time to contact your House members and Senators and encourage them to oppose any attempts to legalize Sunday alcohol sales in your county or city. Already bills have been introduced that would legalize Sunday sales in the following cities and/or counties. If you live in these areas, please contact your legislators and urge them to oppose Sunday alcohol sales! (If you live in other areas of the state where there is talk about such action, contact your city council members, county commissioners and state legislators and ask them NOT to push for or introduce legislation that would legalize Sunday alcohol sales.
The City of Anniston
The City of Weaver
The City of Wetumpka
Privatization update: I shared earlier in this 2013 Session that we anticipated a bill that would privatize the Alcohol Beverage Control stores in Alabama. I gave several reasons for our opposition to that suggestion and my op-ed has actually appeared in at least one national publication and several state publications. I will not repeat my arguments here except to point out that under the control system now in place in Alabama, we have the highest revenue from the selling of distilled spirits (hard liquor) of any of the fifty United States and we are among the lowest in consumption each year. We want to see the consumption rate stay low! At this half-way point in the 2013 Legislative Session, no privatization bill has been introduced. The individual who has talked about introducing such a bill has indicated that he is still working out the details and would like to discuss his bill with Dr. Ireland and me before he introduces it in order to get our input. We will welcome this opportunity.
HB57, introduced by Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, has passed the House and has passed out of the Senate Health Committee. It is awaiting action in the full Senate. It was on the Special Order Calendar on the last day before the Senate adjourned for Spring Break and the leadership has assured us that it will be taken up as soon as they return to the State House on April 2. If it passes the Senate without amendments, it will go to the Governor for his signature. If it is amended, it will have to go back to the House for their concurrence. This bill calls for abortion clinics to meet the same standards as those currently in effect in ambulatory surgical centers. If the abortion clinics cannot meet those standards, they will be forced to close. Most pro-life organizations, including ALCAP, support this legislation.
A couple of bills designed to regulate payday lending and title pawn shops have been introduced. These bills, if passed into law, will help to protect individuals from the predatory nature of the payday lending and title pawn shop owners. An unusual alliance of conservative organizations, such as ALCAP, and groups usually identified as being more liberal in their positions have partnered with both conservative and liberal legislators in support of these regulatory bills. On April 2, at 1:45 p.m., there will be a rally and press conference at the State House, sponsored by the Alliance for Responsible Lending in Alabama. At 2:30 p.m. everyone will be encouraged to visit their respective legislators and ask them to support these payday lending and title pawn bills (we will have the bill numbers available at the gathering, but one bill is HB462 by Rep. Rod Scott). For more information on this gathering, you can call Jacob at 334.263.0086.
On the state level, two or three bills have been introduced that would legalize a state-wide lottery in Alabama. However, the leadership in the House and Senate have indicated that these bills will not pass out of committee. For that strong stand against gambling, we are grateful. It has been refreshing not to have to deal with pro-gambling bills since the beginning of the 2011 Regular Legislative Session! Prior to that time, pro-gambling bills would often dominate the 30-day sessions. One year, the Senate actually wasted 10 legislative days (one third of the entire session) on one pro-gambling bill.
Still no word on legislation to increase the penalty for possession of 10 or more electronic gambling devices from a Class A Misdemeanor to a Class C Felony. We have received word that there are 4-5 State Senators who are not willing to vote cloture on a possible filibuster should this bill ever make it to the Senate floor. Unless there are enough votes to stop a filibuster, there is no need to introduce such a bill. When we are able to identify the 4-5 Senators in question, we will let our ALCAP friends know so that you can contact them about this issue.
On the national level, it has come to our attention that Congressman Spencer Bachus (R-Birmingham) is co-sponsoring HR279 in the House of Representatives in Washington, DC. This bill, if passed into law, will be what is termed the "Carcieri Fix." In 2009 the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that Indian tribes recognized after 1934 do not qualify for "land into trust" through the U. S. Department of Interior, and thus cannot purchase land on which to build casinos. Since the Poarch Band of Creek Indians were not recognized until 1985, this Supreme Court ruling opened the door for Alabama's Attorney General, Luther Strange, to file a lawsuit against the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in order to stop them from continuing and expanding their electronic slot machine gambling operations in Alabama. If HR279 passes, it will make the Attorney General's lawsuit a moot issue. Several calls to Rep. Bachus' office have yet to produce a response from the Congressman. Those who live in his congressional district are urged to call Rep. Bachus and voice your outrage at his endorsement of this legislation. Be respectful, but passionate as you voice your opinion.
HB108 - The "Religious Liberty Act" (a.k.a. the "Hobby Lobby Bill") would prevent the government from forcing family-owned companies or businesses with 10 or fewer owners from being forced to provide employee insurance coverage for services, items and/or drugs that might go against the religious beliefs of those owners (such as abortions, abortifacients, contraceptives, etc.). This bill has passed the House and is awaiting passage out of the Senate Committee on Banking and Insurance.
Two companion bills have been introduced in the House and the Senate that would guarantee the right to display documents related to the founding of our nation (even if those documents have a religious connection) on public grounds, including schools - HB299 by Rep. Duwayne Bridges and SB40 by Sen. Gerald Dial. The Senate passed SB40 and the House Committee on Constitution, Campaigns and Elections voted to "give the bill a favorable report" (which means it now goes to the full House for a vote). Rep. Bridges asked that his bill be "carried over" so that the Senate version of the bill could move forward.
The Alabama Accountability Act became law with the Governor's signature.This new law allows parents of children who live in failing school districts to receive a limited tax credit that can be used to enroll their child/children in another school. Our hope is that this law will serve to encourage schools to provide the best education possible for the children of Alabama.
Companion bills in the House and Senate were introduced with the intention of repealing Alabama's participation in the Common Core Standards. Many feel that these standards will lead to a Federal Government take-over of the schools in Alabama and an actual lowering of standards for students. Both bills failed to pass out of committee in each house and are unlikely to do so before the 2013 Session ends.
Rep. Patricia Todd's bill (HB2), legalizing the use of medical marijuana in Alabama, failed to pass out of the House Health Committee the first week of the 2013 Legislative Session. She has now introduced a similar bill (HB315), but it will not likely be brought up in committee before the end of the Session.
Continue to pray for the Alabama Legislature, asking God to lead them in making wise decisions that will help Alabama continue to be a wonderful place for raising families! Pray, too, for the legislators and their own families, and look for ways to show your government officials the love of Christ and your appreciation for their service.
The following statement came from the Focus on the Family's "Pastor's Weekly Briefing," dated October 4, 2007:
"This week, a coalition of five Christian organizations released a joint letter to help educate pastors and churches on how to speak on issues relevant to the 2008 elections while staying within the lawful boundaries set for nonprofit organizations. Focus on the Family — along with the Family Research Council, Alliance Defense Fund, Concerned Women for America, and the James Madison Center for Free Speech — is encouraging pastors and churches to become acquainted with their free-speech rights, and to not be intimidated by threats from liberal watchdog groups." [Click here to read the letter.]
The following article originally appeared in the Baptist Messenger, a publication of the Oklahoma Baptist Convention, and was later adapted by the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention for one of their publications. It is reprinted here by permission of both the ERLC and theBaptist Messenger.
VIEWPOINT: Cowardly Clergyman?
By staff - May 13, 2008 - 6
Since when does a church or its pastor have to remain silent when addressing moral and social issues from a biblical worldview? There is no shortage on those who would like to squelch the voice of the church, especially during a political season.
Now is not the time for the church and its pastor to turn passive with regard to addressing critical social and moral issues from the pulpit. The pastor must speak with conviction based on the authority of the Scripture, not with results from the latest opinion poll. The pastor must challenge his congregation with the truth of God’s Word without regard to the views and opinions of political parties or candidates.
The pastor must do all he can to provide insight to moral and social issues based on God’s Word. Shying away from or avoiding certain issues for fear of offending a particular political candidate or political party member is acting as a cowardly clergyman.
Pastors have every right to preach on moral and social issues and to encourage their congregations to become active in civic affairs. Pastors should never endorse a candidate on behalf of the church. Nor should they use church funds or services to contribute directly to candidates or political committees. The pastor should never distribute materials on church premises that favor any one candidate or political party. However, the pastor does have the right to address moral and social issues being addressed by candidates and political parties.
The church has every right to encourage members to voice their opinions in favor or against legislative issues. A church should never endorse or oppose a political candidate or make contributions to a Political Action Committee. Nor should churches conduct fundraising for political candidates. However, the church is an excellent place for the community to learn more about the political process and legislative issues.
Unfortunately, too many churches and pastors are standing on the sidelines allowing those with a secular worldview to dominate public affairs and critical legislation. Our silence has been perceived as agreement. We must clear our throats and be heard without concession.
We are not skating on thin ice when it comes to taking a stand regarding moral and social issues. We must not be intimidated by those who desire to silence the church. We are called to proclaim the truth. May Joshua 1:9 serve as our guide as we seek to address the moral and social issues of our day. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” May the Lord find us strong and courageous as together we seek to make a difference within our culture.
It is time to speak up, pastor. Take a stand with God’s Word as your guide! Churches, stand with your pastor as he proclaims the truth of God’s Word with regard to sensitive social and moral issues of the day.
Church members, beware of allowing your political persuasions to compromise your biblical convictions. Know where candidates stand on the issues and support those who share your values as a believer and follower of Jesus Christ.
This editorial is adapted and reprinted with permission from the April 10, 2008 Oklahoma Baptist Messenger.
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission works to educate Americans about the importance of voting, among many other moral and social issues we face in today’s society. To learn more about this important issue, please visit our Web site at iVoteValues.org.