2 years ago

Marsh: I wish the legislature would’ve let the people of Alabama vote on lottery

MONTGOMERY — In separate interviews immediately following the end of the Alabama legislature’s 2019 regular session, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) both discussed the lottery proposal that died in the lower chamber in recent weeks.

SB 220, sponsored by State Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore), was considered a “clean,” paper-only lottery proposal that political observers viewed as the best chance for a Yellowhammer State lottery in decades.

As a constitutional amendment, the proposal would have gone to a referendum on the state’s March 2020 primary election ballot. However, after passing the Senate with just the minimum threshold required, the lottery legislation was defeated in the House on a procedural vote.

While Marsh said the 2019 regular session was broadly one of the most productive in his time in the legislature, he expressed that the lottery failing to advance to a vote of the people was a significant disappointment.

Marsh advised that the legislature’s success started with passing the Rebuild Alabama Act in a special session and that this momentum continued into the regular session.

“I look at it as one of the best sessions I’ve ever seen,” he summarized.

However, not every priority was accomplished.

“The one thing I wish had happened: at the end of the day, I wish I could’ve gotten to the people, the voters of this state, the opportunity to vote on a straight lottery,” Marsh lamented.

“The Senate passed that bill,” he continued. “It went to the House. Unfortunately, it never got up for a [final] vote in the House. I wish the people would’ve had that opportunity. And, it would’ve, in my opinion, eased some pressure on the state General Fund going forward.”

Ultimately, while the state had a very good year for both budgets this time around, things do not look so rosy going forward, as major financial obligations like the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the corrections/prisons crisis are set to increase by huge amounts.

House Ways and Means General Fund Chairman Steve Clouse (R-Ozark) this week said there are “real thunderstorms” on the horizon for the General Fund.

One of these major issues could be addressed in another special session later this year. Rumors have persisted that Governor Kay Ivey is set to call a special session for the prison system in October, but McCutcheon on Friday said he is still hesitant to forecast exactly when that special session will be.

While much more needs to be overhauled at the Alabama Department of Corrections policy-wise, one big-ticket expenditure is expected to be the construction of new men’s prisons in the state. The logistics of that, and how the state pays for it, is a looming legislative battle — with a consensus seemingly far off still.

When asked by a reporter on Friday, Marsh said the lottery could play into this discussion on prisons, as the need for significant new revenue seems inevitable regardless of what the final corrections plan will look like.

“There’s no doubt there’s going to be financial requirements [for prisons]… I think the lottery is an option,” Marsh said.

‘The issue of politics’

McCutcheon called the 2019 session “very good,” saying the legislature did not run away from the “tough issues” this year.

He and Marsh both outlined that the legislature did take steps to improve the prison system during the regular session, including an important Board of Pardons and Paroles reform bill, funding for 500 new corrections officers in the General Fund budget and legislation to provide a two-step pay increase for DOC officers.

McCutcheon expressed optimism that giving legislators more time will ultimately lead to better outcomes for a comprehensive corrections reform package.

“The thing that I would hope as we move into the summer is that we get away from the political, legislative pressure of trying to promote legislation in a hurry,” the speaker said. “And we start looking at all of these areas — and we start looking at ways we can fix the problem.”

He added that a “cooperative effort” between the U.S. Department of Justice, the governor’s office and the legislature will be key.

“I think by the time we get into the fall and the end of this year, I think you’re going to see some significant pieces of legislation, as well as some plans moving forward that will help us,” McCutcheon advised.

He noted the legislature has already been “discussing ways that we can fund” corrections improvements.

“These issues are going to come with a price tag,” McCutcheon emphasized. “And we’re going to have to find out – or find out how – that we can address some of these issues with the funding that we need.”

He said this looming “price tag” was even discussed in this year’s General Fund conference committee, with legislative leaders talking about planning ahead for the “corrections cost that’s going to be coming.”

“So, it’s top priority,” McCutcheon continued, saying the General Fund will have a “very difficult” time next year between corrections and CHIP.

He did not single out any ideas for raising new revenue for corrections, but later in the interview McCutcheon discussed the lottery dying in the House.

Asked about the “major obstacles” that prevented the lottery from passing the chamber, the speaker said, “I think there were several issues out there.”

“Of course, you always have the issue of politics,” McCutcheon continued. “You’ve got the different governing bodies, between the Democrats and Republicans and different philosophies of how they think we should [raise] revenue. You had the issues of the rural healthcare, Medicaid expansion, food tax. There were all of these debates out there.”

One of these points of debate was allocating lottery revenue. The Senate-passed version of SB 220 gave all of the proceeds to the General Fund, while the supposed “compromise” substitute version approved by a House committee would have sent 25% to the Education Trust Fund. However, there were influential legislators who wanted a 50/50 split, or even more than half of the revenues going to education.

While McCutcheon extolled the “methodical” nature in which the House examined the lottery, it sounds like perfect may have been the enemy of good.

“Then you got into the discussion of, ‘If you’re going to put it into education, what’s it going to fund in the education budget?’ Then there was the scholarship program that was being discussed. And then there was, ‘Was there enough money being transferred over to education?’ Then you had the debate between, ‘Well, the General Fund is going to need money for the corrections [system],’ and that became a discussion. And I think through all of the discussions and the fact that the House was being methodical about each piece of legislation, I personally welcomed that – I didn’t want to try and push that bill or rush that bill through, and as you got into discussion, there were just not enough votes there,” McCutcheon explained, saying he did not have the “feeling like everybody was unified enough to pass a lottery bill the way it was proposed” and considering “the issues we were facing.”

When asked, he added that respective bills to legalize electronic bingo in Macon and Greene Counties popping up while the House considered the lottery did not help SB 220’s chances of passage.

‘Medicaid expansion is a component of having good rural healthcare’

McCutcheon also noted that Medicaid expansion became a major point of discussion in the House debate over where lottery revenues would go.

He emphasized a promise was never made during Rebuild Alabama Act consideration between House Republican leadership and the minority caucus to expand Medicaid.

However, McCutcheon explained that the discussion over rural healthcare and the potential of Medicaid expansion was an ongoing issue for the House.

“We’re going to continue to have those discussions, because I think Medicaid expansion is a component of having good rural healthcare,” the speaker said. “Not to say we have to have Medicaid expansion, but you can’t have discussions about rural hospitals and rural healthcare without at least talking about Medicaid. And, so in that, there’s a discussion that needs to be taking place.”

Marsh told House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) in a recent meeting (while SB 220 was still alive) that Medicaid expansion was not currently a financial possibility for the state’s General Fund but that lottery revenues could make Medicaid expansion a realistic option in Alabama.

McCutcheon on Friday acknowledged that cost was an obstacle right now to Medicaid expansion becoming a more “serious” discussion.

“There’s a cost involved,” he stressed.

Overall, McCutcheon graded the 2019 regular session as an “A minus.” Marsh gave it between a “B plus” and an “A minus.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 hours ago

Alabama basketball defeats Mississippi State to stay undefeated in SEC play

The Alabama Crimson Tide are now 8-0 in conference play after defeating Mississippi State 81-73 on Saturday.

With a formula of driving the lane and passing out to perimeter shooters, Alabama has made the three-point shot their go-to game plan behind shooters like John Petty and Jaden Shackelford.

For the Bulldogs, their defense was up to the task at times. However, in crucial moments of the game, Mississippi State was unable to cover Bama’s three-point specialists and ended up getting burned.

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In their victory over the Bulldogs, Bama shot over 42% from behind the line, and Petty tied with freshman guard Joshua Primo for the most threes in the game at four. Mississippi State as a team only hit four three-pointers on Saturday.

Petty spoke to Dari Nowkhah and Daymeon Fishback on the SEC Network’s “SEC Now” after the game. On how he and his teammates have had so much success from behind the arc, Petty said, “We honestly don’t shoot as many threes in practice as you would expect from what we shoot in our games.”

That is hard to believe, considering how well the Tide have done this season shooting the three. Through just 16 games, the Alabama hoops squad has hit 165 three-point shots.

Herb Jones is arguably Bama’s best all-around player. On both offense and defense, he is able to be a difference-maker for his team. Saturday, Jones was the leading scorer on his team with 17 points. He also added five rebounds and seven assists to his stat line.

Bama head coach Nate Oats has completely changed the way Alabama is playing basketball, and his players seem to not only enjoy but also flourish in his system. His system is predicated on the players having the freedom to shoot almost anytime they want as long as the ball has touched the paint, or inside, at least once on the possession.

On playing for Oats, Petty said, “It’s been great playing for coach Oats. He gives us freedom on the offensive end, as long as you’re playing hard on defense, he gives you that freedom on offense to just play.”

Petty added that he was used to the freedom of his play in high school, and he enjoys being able to play with the freedom to shoot when he wants.

For a player like Petty, shot freedom is the reason he has become a star the last two seasons.

On how many threes he would make out of 100 wide-open shots, Petty stated, “If I shot 100 wide-open threes, I would probably hit at least 85.”

He added with a laugh, “I’m pretty high level when I’m wide open.”

Alabama is playing better and better each week, even beating some of the top SEC schools handily, including Kentucky, Florida and Auburn.

The Tide are on their way up and remain at the top of the conference with the only true challenges left being teams they have already beaten.

One of those teams travels to Tuscaloosa this week, as Alabama takes on Kentucky in Coleman Coliseum for a rematch. The first time the two teams met this season, Bama defeated the Wildcats by 20 points. The game is set to take place on Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. CT in another tough test for the Tide and their unblemished conference record.

Alabama’s win on Saturday moves their overall record to 13-3 on the season.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

7 hours ago

Fmr State Rep. Ed Henry: Pardon possibility looked bleak at the very end — Came at last minute from Trump at behest of Mo Brooks

Last week, former State Rep. Ed Henry was among 73 individuals to receive an end-of-term pardon from President Donald Trump, but it was not a certainty until the very end, according to Henry, who had pleaded guilty to a Medicare fraud case in 2019.

During an interview with Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5 on Friday, Henry said the process had actually begun in September and was on track through the end of the year until the events of January 6 ensued.

However, with just hours remaining in the Trump presidency, which included lobbying from U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Auburn) and U.S. Reps. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) and Barry Moore (R-Enterprise), Henry received word he would receive the pardon.

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“I had desired one but didn’t even know how to do the process,” he said. “A close friend of mine, businessman up here, Tom Fredericks, reached out to Congressman [Mo] Brooks at a breakfast and just said, ‘I need you to look into working on a pardon for Ed Henry. Congressman Brooks — he had known the case. He had followed it, and I had given him all kinds of information about the lunacy of what they were claiming. He agreed, and he said I had never done this before but started the process back in September and just trying to figure out how to do the pardon. Basically, you’ve just got to get enough people to push it through the White House counsel. Senator [Tommy] Tuberville got on board right after he got elected. And then, Congressman Barry Moore from down in Enterprise in the second district has known about the case from the beginning. He and I served in the House together, so he knew the entirety of it. And they started pushing.”

“We were in line to get the pardon I was told probably in December,” Henry continued. “And then, all the chaos that ensued on January 6 kind of changed the landscape, and I have a friend that works in the White House staff — I didn’t know they were still there until all of this started happening — but I was told instead of the list getting longer, which is what typically happens on the last day of the president’s term,  President Trump’s list got shorter. At 9 p.m. on Tuesday night, I got a message from Congressman Brooks that said he said he had just spoken with Donald Trump, and my name did not make the 72 people that were getting a pardon. Congressman Brooks asked President Trump to specifically look at my case and the merits of what had gone on, despite White House counsel. President Trump told him, ‘I’ll look at it, but it is probably too late. I don’t think I can make it happen at this point.'”

“We were a little bit let down,” he added. “But honestly, I felt at peace about it. It doesn’t really define me, and I was ready to move on. And at 10 o’clock, I got a call back from Congressman Brooks that said the President of the United States just called and said, ‘Call Ed Henry. Let him know he’s a good guy. And I’ve got his pardon.’ It took two hours to actually pull all of that together, and at midnight, my phone started blowing up from different people all around the country that I had received the last presidential pardon that Donald Trump gave.”

@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.

8 hours ago

Lake Eufaula lands 2021 Bassmaster Team Championship event

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The last spot in the 2022 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk will be filled on historic Lake Eufaula as this Alabama fishery hosts the Bassmaster Team Championship and Classic Fish-Off Dec. 8-11, 2021.

Battling for that coveted berth in the Bassmaster Classic will be the grassroots anglers competing at the Bassmaster Team Championship. The team portion of the event will be held Dec. 8-9 and will feature anglers from across the country — 32 states in 2020. The winning duo will not only win a cash prize, but they’ll also lead the charge into the Classic Fish-Off which will take place Dec. 10-11.

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The top three teams through Day 2 — six anglers in all — will have their weights zeroed and then compete individually in the Fish-Off. The competitor with the heaviest two-day total of the group will earn their spot in the Classic. 

In 2020, that honor went to Jordan Wiggins, a 29-year-old Cullman, Ala., resident whose older brother Jesse notched a third-place finish in the 2019 Classic.

“What a wonderful way to end a year,” says Ann Sparks, Tourism and Main Street Executive Director for the City of Eufaula. “We are thrilled to be hosting the Bassmaster Team Championship and showing off what Lake Eufaula has to offer! Most anglers have fished our great lake, but we are excited to show off our changes and improvements to our beautiful town.”

B.A.S.S. has visited Lake Eufaula 17 times for major events, including an Elite Series tournament last year that was broadcast live to an audience of more than 2.8 million. The town itself — with a statue declaring Eufaula as the “Big Bass Capital of the World” — is known throughout the fishing industry as the hometown of legendary angler and lure designer Tom Mann. It’s the home of Mann’s Bait Company and the Johnson Outdoors location where Humminbird electronics are produced.

In addition to the Team Championship event, Lake Eufaula will also host the Bassmaster B.A.S.S. Nation Kayak Series powered by TourneyX on May 1.

The tournaments are being hosted by the Eufaula Barbour Chamber of Commerce.

(Courtesy of B.A.S.S.)

9 hours ago

Del Marsh: Legislative priorities include gaming, broadband for remainder of Alabama Senate tenure; Expect gambling proposal next week

Earlier this year, State Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) announced he was stepping down from the pro tempore post, and Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) would assume the role for the 2021 legislative session.

Marsh says he gave up the pro tem position he had held since 2010 to focus on his legislative priorities centered around education.

During an interview with Mobile radio’s FM Talk 106.5 on Friday, Marsh gave listeners a preview of his efforts, including gaming and rural broadband internet access. The Calhoun County Republican revealed details of his gaming proposal would be “probably out next week.”

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“One of the first things I’m going to be coming out with, and details will probably out next week — I’ve been working for some months on a comprehensive gaming package for the state of Alabama,” he said. “And the reason I’m doing this, Jeff — one is to provide scholarships for our young people — not only to those going to four-year universities — the scholarships to post-secondary, the trade schools that we have such a desperate need for those types of skills in Alabama but I think that a lottery will provide that. On the other side, you’ve heard me talk for some time about the need for broadband and the state of Alabama coverage from part of the state to the other. Rural areas during this pandemic have been unequally served because they don’t have access. I mean, think about the kids out there that are doing virtual learning, and then those that can’t do it at all because they don’t have internet access.”

“I think that a gaming bill can provide a long-term statewide broadband program and provide scholarships for our young people and young adults, who are perhaps looking at career changes,” Marsh added. “That piece of legislation will be a constitutional amendment. It’ll be for the people to vote on. It is my intention to get it through the Senate and the House. I’ve been working closely with leadership in both houses, and I’m optimistic we can get something out. It will tail onto the gaming commission the governor just finished. My bill had already had a lot of those components in it. But we’ve taken the suggestions of the governor’s gaming commission and added them into the piece of legislation, and I look forward to getting that out and letting the people take a look at that early in the session.”

@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.

9 hours ago

Auburn basketball begins to find its stride in a 109-86 beat down of South Carolina

The Auburn Tigers have had a rough going in the beginning of SEC play, losing five of their last seven SEC games coming into Saturday’s matchup with South Carolina. However, recent wins against Kentucky and Georgia have put the Tigers on a much brighter path with endless possibilities.

One big factor for the turnaround is point guard Sharife Cooper, who had to work out eligibility issues with the NCAA early in the season.

In the game Saturday, Cooper picked up a double-double by scoring 16 points and recording 12 assists to propel Auburn to a 109-86 victory over the Gamecocks. The 6’1” point guard also managed to snag six rebounds for the Tigers.

Guard Allen Flanigan scored the most points of anyone in this contest, which has become normal for the sophomore this season. Flanigan went 4-6 from the three-point line to help get him to his team-high 24 points.

Defeating the Gamecocks was a big win for this young Tiger team, considering that even the most experienced Bruce Pearl-coached teams have had trouble facing Frank Martin’s squads.

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However, the Tigers were able to get it done in Columbia. The key to the win was getting the entire team involved. Pearl’s group had no problem there with five players scoring in double figures.

This Auburn team made history with 109 points being the most ever against an SEC team on the road in program history. On the record-breaking performance, Flanigan said, “Everybody who comes to Auburn, we come here to make history. We made history tonight.”

Forwards J.T. Thor and Jaylin Williams tied for the most rebounds on Saturday at seven a piece. Auburn’s big men are starting to attack the boards, which is something the Tigers have been missing even from their great teams in recent years. Williams added 18 points to his stat line, which was second on the team.

Williams has been a key player in the Tiger’s offense this season so far, but he seemed to start growing towards a more pivotal role this week. That could pay off for Auburn in the long run, considering he is very athletic with a big frame and a confident perimeter shot.

If Pearl can get Williams more comfortable on offense and give him a larger role, the Tigers will have multiple star players to lean on in crucial situations, which is great for a young team.

The Auburn Tigers improve to 3-5 in conference play. They will have a quick turnaround this week, hosting the 19th-ranked Missouri Tigers on Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. CT on ESPN 2. If Auburn wants to climb up the SEC ladder, what better opportunity is there than a team in the top five of the conference?

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.