February 16, 2024

Gambling Legislation Passes House

Top: Rep. Ben Harrison, R-Cartwright, right, expressed opposition to HB 151 during debate on the House Floor. Below Right: Rep. Ernie Yarbrough, R-Trinity, also conveyed concerns about the impact of HB 151 on individuals and communities. Bottom: Individual votes for and against HB 151 were displayed above the House chamber.

Controversial gambling legislation passed the Alabama House of Representatives Thursday after about two hours of debate.

Alabama Farmers Federation External Affairs Department Director Brian Hardin expressed disappointment with passage of the bills.

"This legislation should be a concern to every Alabamian," Hardin said. "Legalized gambling will increase crime, addiction and corruption while taking advantage of low-income families in our state."

HB 151, a constitutional amendment, and HB 152, enabling legislation, by Rep. Chris Blackshear, R-Phenix City, would legalize casino-style gaming, online gaming, sports betting, and introduce a statewide lottery. Rep. Andy Whitt, R-Ardmore, cosponsored the legislation and chaired the committee which developed the gambling proposal. The bills were slightly amended during a committee Wednesday.

Federation policy states, "We oppose gambling in all forms: casino gaming, state lottery, sports betting, electronic gaming and online gambling."

HB 151, which required a two-thirds majority, passed with a vote of 70-32 with one absent. HB 152 required only a simple majority and passed with a vote of 67 to 31 with one abstention and four not voting.

Federation State Legislative Programs Director Russ Durrance praised legislators who fought to protect their constituents and voted "no."

"We're thankful for the hard work and dedication of those who voted 'no'," Durrance said. "Their commitment to their constituents is admirable, and they have our gratitude for listening to the concerns of our members. It took tremendous strength to fight against this, and we appreciate their dedication."

Of those voting against the legislation, several representatives spoke in opposition during debate on the House floor.

Rep. Jim Carns, R-Vestavia Hills, said rushing a bill this impactful would haunt the state in years to come.

"We’re opening the door for things we cannot imagine 10-15 years down the road," Carns said. "This bill will change the landscape of Alabama."

Rep. Arnold Mooney, R-Birmingham, referenced the Alabama Constitution of 1901, which prohibits gambling, saying the creators recognized the dangers so many years ago.

"I came to the conclusion in my personal understanding of things that probably the things that go into our Constitution should be items that are of tantamount importance to the benefit and good of the people of our state,” Mooney said.

Rep. Jennifer Fidler, R-Fairhope, argued gaming equipment could easily be manipulated to alter the odds of winning.

Rep. Ernie Yarbrough, R-Trinity, pleaded with his colleagues to consider their responsibility to protect their constituents.

"Is our jobs to get out of the way as leaders and allow legislation through that will harm our people?" Yarbrough questioned. "The question before us is whether or not the state of Alabama should partner with predatory gambling that can only exist on the backs of addiction and destruction."

The bills are expected to be heard in a Senate committee next week with a vote of the full chamber possible in the following days.

Hardin urged Federation members to reach out to their senators and express concerns about this legislation and ask them to vote 'no'. Senators can be quickly reached at the Voter Voice link below.

Representatives not supporting Federation policy and voting ‘yes’ for HB 151 were: 

Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville

Cynthia Almond, R-Tuscaloosa

Alan Baker, R-Brewton

Chris Blackshear, R-Phenix City

Barbara Boyd, D-Anniston 

Napoleon Bracy, D-Saraland

Bryan Brinyark, R-Northport 

Chip Brown, R-Hollingers Island 

Mack Butler, R-Gadsden

Prince Chestnut, D-Valley Grande

Adline Clarke, D-Mobile

Steve Clouse, R-Ozark 

Terri Collins, R-Decatur

Danny Crawford, R-Athens

Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville

Barbara Drummond, D-Mobile

Brett Easterbrook, R-Fruitdale

Corley Ellis, R-Columbiana

Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa

Phillip Ensler, D-Montgomery

Bob Fincher, R-Woodland

Berry Forte, D-Eufaula

Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham

Donna Givens, R-Loxley

Jeremy Gray, D-Opelika

Laura Hall, D-Huntsville

Corey Harbison, R-Hanceville

Kenyatte Hassell, D-Montgomery

Travis Hendrix, D-Birmingham

Jim Hill, R-Odenville

Frances Holk-Jones, R-Foley

Rolanda Hollis, D-Birmingham

Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville

Sam Jones, D-Mobile

Mike Kirkland, R-Scottsboro

Kelvin Lawrence, D-Hayneville

Paul Lee, R-Dothan

Craig Lipscomb, R-Gadsden

James Lomax, R-Huntsville

Joe Lovvorn, R-Auburn

Rhett Marques, R-Enterprise

A.J. McCampell, D-Demopolis

Patrice McClammy, D-Montgomery

Mary Moore, D-Birmingham

Parker Moore, R-Hartselle

Tashina Morris, D-Montgomery

Ed Oliver, R-Dadeville

Marcus Paramore, R-Troy

Phillip Pettus, R-Green Hill

Chris Pringle, R-Mobile

Neil Rafferty, D-Birmingham

Rick Rehm, R-Dothan

Rex Reynolds, R-Hazel Green

Phillip Rigsby, R-Huntsville

Chad Robertson, R-Heflin

John Rogers, D-Birmingham

Patrick Sellers, D-Pleasant Grove

Chris Sells, R-Greenville

Ginny Shaver, R-Leesburg

Mark Shirey, R-Mobile

Matt Simpson, R-Daphne

Jeff Sorrells, R-Hartford

Ontario Tillman, D-Bessemer

Curtis Travis, D-Tuscaloosa

Tim Wadsworth, R-Arley

Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee

Andy Whitt, R-Ardmore

Ritchie Whorton, R-Owens Cross Roads

Margie Wilcox, R-Mobile

Debbie Wood, R-Valley

Representatives who supported Federation policy by voting 'no' against HB 151 were:

Russell Bedsole, R-Alabaster

Ron Bolton, R-Northport

Jim Carns, R-Vestavia Hills

Brock Colvin, R-Albertville

Susan DuBose, R-Hoover

Tracy Estes, R-Winfield

David Faulkner, R-Homewood

Jennifer Fidler, R-Fairhope

Danny Garrett, R-Trussville

Mark Gidley, R-Gadsden

Matthew Hammett, R-Dozier

Ben Harrison, R-Cartwright

Leigh Hulsey, R-Helena

Reed Ingram, R-Pike Road

Jamie Kiel, R-Russellville

Bill Lamb, R-Tuscaloosa

Arnold Mooney, R-Birmingham

Kenneth Paschal, R-Pelham

Ben Robbins, R-Sylacauga

Mike Shaw, R-Hoover

Randall Shedd, R-Baileyton

Van Smith, R-Clanton

Scott Stadthagen, R-Hartselle

David Standridge, R-Oneonta

Jerry Starnes, R-Prattville

Shane Stringer, R-Mobile

Troy Stubbs, R-Wetumpka

Allen Treadaway, R-Morris

Kerry "Bubba" Underwood, R-Tuscumbia

Randy Wood, R-Anniston

Matt Woods, R-Jasper

Ernie Yarbrough, R-Trinity

Voter Voice
HB 151 (Constitutional Amendment)
HB 152 (Enabling Legislation)

Federation President Jimmy Parnell Speaks Against Gambling at Press Conference

Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell spoke regarding the organization's opposition to gambling legislation during a news conference Tuesday.

Federation's Roberts Testifies on Gambling Concerns to House Committee

Federation Director of Agricultural Legislation Preston Roberts testified before the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee about issues with proposed gambling legislation HB 151 and 152 on Tuesday.

Roberts presented the grassroots organization's long-standing opposition to any form of gambling.

"This has been the Alabama Farmers Federation's policy for decades," Roberts said. "It is rooted in our members' belief that gambling is bad public policy that weakens communities, targets the vulnerable and fuels crime. While our members are unapologetically opposed to any attempt to legalize gambling, the proposals before you should concern all Alabamians."

Roberts highlighted issues with the bills including lack of judicial oversight, potential for corruption, conflicts of interest and few protections for Alabamians, including children.

"This bill gives substantial protections to the gambling interests while leaving your constituents and our members unprotected," Roberts said. "Under this bill, if DraftKings wanted to sponsor my seven-year-old's little league team, they would be allowed to do so. The legislation does not go near far enough to protect your constituents, including children, from the predatory actions of gambling operators."

Voting to give the bills a favorable report were: Chair Andy Whitt, R-Ardmore; Vice Chair Ginny Shaver, R-Leesburg, Ranking Minority Member Rolanda Hollis, D-Birmingham, Rep. Chip Brown, R-Hollingers Island, Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark; Rep. Corey Harbison, R-Hanceville; Rep. Frances Holk-Jones, R-Foley; Rep. Tashina Morris, D-Montgomery, Rep. Neil Rafferty, D-Birmingham; and Rep. Chad Robertson, R-Heflin.

Rep. Allen Treadaway, R-Morris, was the single dissenting vote, which supports Federation policy.

HB 151 and 152 have been sent to the Senate for consideration.

Bills in Brief

Lab-Grown Meat Prohibition Bill - SB 23 by Sen. Jack Williams, R-Wilmer passed the Senate unanimously on Thursday. It now goes to the House for consideration. The bill would prohibit the manufacture and sale of cultivated or cultured meat products. The bill defines a cultivated meat product as one that is produced from cultured animal cells. “Lab-grown meat” or “cultured meat” is a developing product which is still being heavily researched. The process involves taking live cells from animals and then culturing those cells in a controlled environment to produce a food product. The Farmers Federation has policy that opposes the labeling of any of these products as meat.

"CHOOSE Act" - The Creating Hope & Opportunity for Our Student's Education (CHOOSE) Act was introduced in both chambers last week. SB 61 by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur and HB 129 by Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, would create education savings accounts (ESA's) to offset qualifying educational expenses for students. Up to $7,000 per child would be available for students attending public or private schools, while $2,000 per child with a $4,000 cap per family would be available for homeschool students. Funds would come from a new, refundable income tax credit and become available beginning in the 2025-26 academic year. Students and families would be required to meet certain conditions to qualify for funding. SB 61 and HB 129 are currently awaiting action in the Senate Finance and Taxation Education and House Ways and Means Education committees, respectively. HB 129 is scheduled for a public hearing in committee this Wednesday, Feb. 21, with a vote by the committee scheduled Thursday, Feb. 22. The concept of school choice is supported by Federation policy which states: "We favor creative and innovative approaches to solving education's problems, thus we support a competitive "voucher" program that allows parents to choose which school, public or private, would be best for their child."

Ballot Harvesting Prevention Bill - SB 1 by Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman, would make 'ballot harvesting' illegal in Alabama. It passed the Senate after hours of debate on Tuesday. 'Ballot harvesting' is when an individual pays someone for assistance in filling out an absentee ballot, which is linked to voter fraud. Proponents of the bill argued its necessity in securing Alabama elections. SB 1 was referred to the House Constitution, Campaigns and Elections committee. SB 1 is supported by Federation policy.

Agricultural Fencing Sales Tax Exemption Bill - SB 73 by Sen. Jack Williams, R-Wilmer, will be considered by the Senate Finance and Taxation Education committee on Feb. 28. SB 73 would exempt the sale of fencing materials used in agricultural livestock operations from the state sales tax. The Federation supports SB 73.

The Legislature will reconvene on Tuesday, February 20, for day 7 of a possible 30 days. 

The House will convene at 1 p.m. while the Senate will convene at 2 p.m.

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Capitol Connection | Alabama Farmers Federation | (334) 288-3900 | AlfaFarmers.org


 Brian Hardin - Director, External Affairs Department

 Preston Roberts - Director, Agricultural Legislation

Russ Durrance - Director, State Legislative Programs

John Allen Nichols - Agriculture Counsel

Beth Chapman - Beth Chapman and Associates, LLC

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