Legislative Update – Week 3

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.)