- CRITTER TALK
- NEWS I FIND INTERESTING
This is a special Muzings for all my friends who have been closely following things such as the health care reform or health care insurance reform discussions for the last year in Washington, D. C. I know, this has been great fun for those who really like to watch a real heavy weight struggle. It is sort of like watching to grossly overweight, prize fighters who are just happy they are still breathing at the end of the first round. Every round is the same. They walk to the center of the ring, lean on each other and every once in a while slap the other guy on the shoulder. Other great analogies are watching grass grow, or watching molasses flow uphill in the dead of winter. In other words, Einstein never had to worry about the speed of congress when he was calculating the Theory of Relativity. The excitement generated by the day to day inactivity of the Senate not passing any legislation was not going to cause many heart attacks due to over excitement. Well fear not my friends for I have found the place of action to keep you focused. It is better than South Carolina’s Governor going for a walk on the Appalachian Trail and ending up in Argentina with his soul mate. It is even better than Nevada’s Governor going to a governor’s conference in, where else; Washington, D.C., with his girl friend who didn’t go with him but was magically at his side at the conference. He even had his photo taken with her and, of all people, Governor Sanford, of South Carolina. The Nevada Governor then flew back from D.C. alone although his girl friend just happened to be on the same plane. Yep, what I have for you folks is even better than that. It moves faster, and has more twists and turns than a “Murder She Wrote” mystery. I am going to take you a little trip over the next few issues of the “the Muze” because it is bit too complicated for a single rant.
The place: The State of Alabama. The players; Governor Bob Riley and Attorney General Troy King. The Issue; Bingo. Yes bingo. Now it doesn’t seem like this simple little game that little blue hair ladies play on Wednesday nights with paper cards and butterbeans to cover the numbers would raise much of a ruckus. Well, they don’t because bingo has gone high tech and big time and stirred up a major hornets’ nest in the state. It currently has the two most powerful Republicans in the state at each others’ throats and has almost brought several law enforcement agencies into gun battles with each other. Are we having fun yet? See Alabama is stuck in the middle of four states that have legalized gambling of some type and Alabama has none, zilch, nothing even close. Well, it did have a couple of dog tracks that lasted a couple of years, and a horse track that lasted a year but that was it. Other than that, Alabama has been free, free I tell you of the sin of gambling! Hallelujah! Alabama also has perhaps the most regressive tax system in the country with the lowest property tax. Unemployment is well above the national average, and, well the state is basically going broke fast. Several years ago when the dog tracks began to fail the track owners began to slip in a few electronic “bingo” machines to make up for their losses. No one said much since there were only three locations in the state at the time and they employed a lot of people. During that period of time Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee started lotteries. The State of Mississippi authorized casino gambling with a lot of the casinos located close to the state lines with other states. Suddenly a lot of Alabamians were trotting across state lines to try their luck at the various gaming activities in the surrounding states. That meant lost revenue to a number of Alabama resorts and border cities. Of course many of the fine folk of Alabama had said they didn’t want the sin of gambling in their state. But based on one the strangest state constitutions in this country counties were allowed to hold referendums to pass county level constitution amendments to open electronic Bingo Halls in their counties as long as a major part of the proceeds went to county services such as education. So, a number of them passed such resolutions and opened their own bingo halls which provided a large number of jobs.
Now the fun begins because generally speaking, gambling with slot machines, electronic or otherwise is illegal by state law. When Bob Riley ran for his second term as governor he swore he would shut down these evil dens of sin because they were not electronic bingo games they were electronic gambling machines and they violated state law. Word had it, and it still persists very strongly, that a lot of Riley’s campaign money was funneled to Riley from the Mississippi Band of the Choctaw Indians who own a number of casinos close to the Alabama state line. There is also the issue of Native American establishments which operate electronic gambling devices on their land within the State of Alabama who would like to see the competition go away also. So now the stage is set for the Alabama Smack Down. What trumps what? Constitutional amendments passed by counties to apply only to that specific county, or the state law. And, who has the authority and responsibility to enforce whichever of these is deemed to be superior.
Eighteen months ago Riley ordered Attorney General Troy King to shut down all of the county run bingo halls. Attorney General King refused to do so saying that because the bingo establishments were legal because they were approved by constitutional amendment. Additionally, it was the job of the counties’ District Attorneys to determine if the state law was being broken. Riley then ordered King to order the District Attorneys to enforce the state law. King then said that District Attorneys were elected officials and he could not intervene unless there was evidence of wrong doing on their part. Riley then decides to take matters into his own hands and appoints a former District Attorney named David Barbour as a Special Prosecutor who answers only to the Governor to enforce the state law. King, the attorney General files suit against the Governor and the Special Prosecutor contending that they do not have jurisdiction to enforce the law because the Attorney General is the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the State. Are you confused yet? Well, stay tuned for the next installment when the governor’s next move takes him to the up the steps of the Alabama Supreme Court. You remember that place where Chief Justice Roy Moore had the big rock with Ten Commandments on it. The one that got him kicked off the court. Well, he is not there anymore, but it is still fun to watch the fun in this state.