Gambling bills face uncertain future in the Alabama legislature

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Miranda Fulmore, WBHM

This year looked to be different for lottery and gambling legislation, which has fallen short for years in the Alabama legislature. But this week, with only a handful of meeting days left, competing House and Senate proposals were sent to a conference committee to work out differences. Is this the last gasp for gambling this year?

“It’s anybody’s guess at this point,” said Todd Stacy, host of Capitol Journal on Alabama Public Television.

Stacy discussed those bills and other legislative action this week.

A divide on gambling

The legislation has been stalled since March when senators scaled back a sweeping House-passed plan that would have allowed a lottery, sports betting and up to 10 casinos with table games. The Senate version would not allow sports betting or casinos outside of tribal land.

Any gambling proposal has to be approved by both three-fifths of lawmakers and a majority of voters. Alabamians have not voted on gambling since a proposed lottery was rejected in 1999.

Stacy said he’s heard mixed views from those on the conference committee about whether a gambling bill will ultimately be successful.

One senator described the situation like “whac-a-mole,” where changes made to attract support result in other lawmakers withdrawing theirs.

“That just kind of tells you even the ones in the room aren’t really sure what’s going to happen here,” Stacy said.

Hospital tax credit stalls

Rural hospitals in Alabama have reached a crisis point with several facilities closing and the remaining ones under strain. A bill aimed at pushing against that trend stalled in a House committee on Wednesday. 

The bill would offer a dollar-for-dollar tax credit to individuals and businesses who donate to a fund to support rural hospitals. 

“It did run into trouble in committee because there are just a lot of these tax credits that have passed over the years that are all for good things,” Stacy said. “Every time there’s a tax credit like this that takes away money from the Education Trust Fund. It’s kind of a death by a thousand cuts.” 

The bill’s sponsor Rep. Terri Collins said she would still work to pass the bill this session.

Death row resentencing voted down

Alabama lawmakers on Wednesday rejected a bill that would provide new sentences for prisoners who were given the death penalty despite a jury’s recommendation of life imprisonment.

Alabama in 2017 became the last state to end the practice of allowing judges to override a jury’s sentence recommendation in a death penalty case, but the change was not retroactive. There are about 33 out of 165 people on Alabama’s death row who were sentenced by judicial override.

The bill was rejected on a party-line vote, with nine Republicans voting against it, and four Democrats voting for it.

“It’s really tough in this Republican legislature to get anything that could be viewed or skewed  as soft on crime through the legislature,” Stacy said.

Rep. Chris England, who has introduced the bill since 2017, said he will try again in 2025. 

Includes reporting from the Associated Press

 

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