House General Fund chairman State Rep. Clouse says lottery, gaming legislation may have to wait until special session later in 2021
Last month, a task force appointed by Gov. Kay Ivey released a nearly 900-page report on the possible future of gambling in Alabama, which was a sign that for the first time, a decades-long standoff could be coming to an end and the state may finally have legalized gambling that would include a lottery.
With the 2021 legislative session less than two weeks away, some anticipate gambling legislation to be taken up this year. However, State Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark), the House Ways and Means General Fund chairman, says gambling, including a lottery, may have to wait for a special session later in the year.
During an interview that aired on Wednesday’s broadcast of Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” Clouse said it was unlikely that controversial issues, which include the long-debated gambling issue and medical marijuana, would be taken up as the State House was operating at a limited capacity under COVID-19 restrictions.
“[I]f we can get that time-sensitive stuff done we’ve been talking about for several months — let’s get it out of the way and then if we are able to get back in and talk about controversial stuff,” he explained. “The public needs to be inside the State House because that’s where a lot of the rubber meets the road on a controversial bill is in the committee process with public hearings where people are testifying. It’s one thing to be able to watch it live streaming. But to actually be able to be there and for citizens themselves to be able to speak, you know — that’s important.”
Clouse said he hoped to fast-track the budgeting processes and said the legislature could come back in a special session to tackle those controversial issues, given the legislature will have to reconvene for a special session for redistricting anyway.
“I’m planning on the fast track if we can,” Clouse said. “It could get derailed. We’ll see over the next few weeks here. But that’s why we’re trying to put so much work in right now. We do anyway, but really trying to fast track it here to see what the situation is — if we just have to come back in and get the budgets and sine die and take up controversial stuff in a special session and that type of thing. We’re going to have special sessions anyway to deal with redistricting — legislative redistricting and congressional later in the year. We’ll definitely be having special sessions this year.”
Clouse, who has carried a lottery bill in the Alabama House of Representatives in prior years, said a special session should be considered if comprehensive legislation that includes not only a lottery but casino gaming as well is on the table.
“I would definitely put that in there, particularly if it is going to be a comprehensive bill,” he said. “And that’s one of the things, one of the options that that task force gave is the comprehensive approach of putting the lottery in the dog tracks’ and the Native Americans’ facilities, Indian facilities. It’s been controversial for 15 years, and it will certainly continue to be controversial, particularly when you’re trying to find out the different sites. But that would certainly be an area where the public would want to be able to weigh-in in a public hearing before a committee, for a committee process, you know.”
@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.