Ivey officially forms gaming/lottery study group, appoints members
Governor Kay Ivey on Friday formally signed Executive Order 719, which formed her “Study Group for Gambling Policy.”
The study group, first previewed during Ivey’s 2020 State of the State Address last week, will be tasked with gathering detailed information to allow the governor, the Alabama legislature and the citizens of the state to make an informed decision on gaming expansion, according to a release from the governor’s office.
“I am committed to, once and for all, getting the facts so that the people of Alabama can make an informed decision on what has been a hotly debated topic for many years,” Ivey said in a statement.
“Without a doubt, there will be ramifications if we eventually expand gaming options in our state just as there are costs associated with doing nothing,” she continued.
“Every so often, this issue resurfaces through a new form of legislation. By my estimation, we’ve had more than 180 bills regarding a lottery or expanded gaming since the late 1990s,” the governor added.
Ivey on Friday also announced the 12 members of the study group, all appointed by her. Former Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange will chair the group.
According to the governor’s office, all of the members have agreed to sign a pledge adhering to the Alabama Ethics Law and shall serve without compensation or reimbursement for their expenses in this role. They will formally sign said pledge at their first public meeting, which has yet to be announced.
The membership of the Study Group on Gambling Policy is as follows:
Todd Strange (chair) of Montgomery is the former mayor of Montgomery. Prior to his tenure as mayor, he served as chairman of the Montgomery County Commission, former president, CEO and co-owner of Blount Strange Automotive group and former director of the Alabama Development Office (the Alabama Department of Commerce).
A.R. “Rey” Almodóvar of Huntsville is the co-founder and Chief Executive officer of INTUITIVE®. Mr. Almodóvar is a licensed professional engineer (P.E.) and holds a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Puerto Rico, M.S. in Engineering from the University of Arkansas, and M.S. in Business Administration from Texas A&M University. He is a graduate of Leadership Alabama Class XXVI.
Dr. Deborah Barnhart of Huntsville is the chief executive officer (CEO) emerita of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville. Previously serving as the Center’s CEO and executive director, her career spans four decades of service in commercial industry, government, aerospace and defense. A retired Navy Captain, she was one of the first 10 women assigned to duty aboard ships and commanded five units in her 26-year career. She has received an undergraduate degree from University of Alabama at Huntsville and Master of Business Administration from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Sloan School of Management and the University of Maryland College Park as well as a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University.
Walter Bell of Mobile is the past chairman of Swiss Re, one of the world’s largest reinsurers. Prior to his time in the private sector, he served as the Alabama Commissioner of Insurance. He launched the Mobile County Urban League in 1978 and is a member of the Alabama Academy of Honor for his achievement in civil rights, civic leadership and business.
Dr. Regina Benjamin of Mobile is a physician who served as the 18th Surgeon General of the United States. Prior to her service to our country, she was the former president of the Alabama Medical Association and provided health care to a medically underserved community by founding the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic. She received a B.S. from Xavier University of Louisiana and a M.D. from the University of Alabama.
Young Boozer of Montgomery currently serves as the assistant superintendent of banking at the Alabama State Banking Department. He is the former treasurer for the state of Alabama and has extensive experience with numerous banking institutions such as Citibank, Crocker National Bank and Colonial Bank. Boozer received his B.S. in Economics from Stanford University and a M.S. in Finance from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Sam Cochran of Mobile has been the Sheriff of Mobile County since 2006. He began his law enforcement career with the Mobile Police Department where he spent 31 years working his way through the ranks – serving his last 10 years as chief of police. Sheriff Cochran serves the community on numerous agency boards, including the Penelope House, Drug Education Council, Boy Scouts of America and the Child Advocacy Center.
Elizabeth “Liz” Huntley of Birmingham is a litigation attorney at Lightfoot, Franklin & White LLC. After rising from an unimaginable childhood, she has become a nationally recognized child advocate and serves on numerous boards including the Alabama School Readiness Alliance, the Children’s Village Board of Directors and the Auburn University Board of Trustees.
Carl Jamison of Tuscaloosa is a third-generation shareholder in JamisonMoneyFarmerPC, one of the largest and oldest public accounting firms in the state of Alabama. He primarily works in the areas of tax planning and audit services to clients in the manufacturing, medical, retail, construction, and professional services industries. He received a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the University of Alabama and is a certified public accountant.
Justice James “Jim” Main of Montgomery is a former justice on the Supreme Court of Alabama as well as previously served as a judge on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. Along with his 30+ year in private legal practice, he served as finance director and policy advisor to Governor Bob Riley as well as legal advisor to Governor Fob James.
Phillip “Phil” Rawls of Pike Road currently serves as a lecturer of journalism for Auburn University. His spent over 35 years working for The Associated Press. His respected career in journalism spanned every Alabama governor from George Wallace to Robert Bentley where he extensively covered government and politics.
Bishop B. Mike Watson of Birmingham is the bishop in residence at Canterbury United Methodist Church in Birmingham and is currently serving as the ecumenical officer of the Council of Bishops. He has served as a minister in Dothan and Mobile. In addition to his work in the ministry, he is a past president of the Mobile County School Board, which is the largest school system in Alabama. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in finance and real estate from the University of Alabama, a Master of Divinity degree from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Vanderbilt University.
“I’m extremely grateful that some of our most distinguished citizens – from a diverse background including all regions of our state – have agreed to help gather this information,” Ivey remarked. “The specific data they gather will hopefully lead us all to making a better, more informed decision.”
The study group is mandated to submit a final report to the governor, the Legislature and the people of Alabama no later than December 31 of this year.
“Ultimately, I believe the final say belongs to the people of Alabama. As their governor, I want them to be fully informed of all the facts so that, together, we can make the best decision possible,” she concluded.
You can view a copy of Ivey’s executive order here.
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians have proposed a plan that would boost the state coffers by over a billion dollars initially and pave the way for a clean, state-run lottery to be instituted. In addition to the initial billion-dollar influx of money to the State coffers, the Poarch Creek plan would reportedly pay the State at least $350 million annually. That plan, along with an education lottery proposed by State Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark), could still be on the legislature’s agenda for the ongoing 2020 regular session, the governor’s study group aside. Clouse estimates his lottery proposal would generate approximately $160 million per year for the State, completely separate from and in addition to the Poarch Creek gaming plan.
Polling has shown overwhelming support for a lottery in Alabama, as well as at least a plurality of support for other gaming expansion. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) on Thursday said it is “highly unlikely” a lottery can pass the legislature without a package deal that includes other gaming.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn