Davis, Sells inform community leaders on Alabama House considerations

Published 3:44 pm Saturday, February 24, 2024

By Lanell Downs Smith

In January 2010, then-Alabama-Treasurer, Kay Ivey wrote an article for the Alabama Baptist Christian Life Commission newsletter and explained why legalizing gambling would fail to solve Alabama’s financial woes. More than a decade later, Alabama legislators are still grappling with bills dealing with gambling, pornography and the sale of mixed-spirit beverages which could dramatically impact nearly every aspect of life for the state’s citizens.

Greg Davis, who is president and CEO of the Alabama Citizens Action Program (ALCAP) seeks to serve state lawmakers and their staff in a pastoral role, offering prayer, fellowship and Bible Study opportunities. He also works to actively inform churches, organizations and individuals about critical issues like gambling, and addressed a gathering of faith and community leaders Saturday to deliver information about proposed legislation up for consideration in the Alabama House of Representatives, which, if passed, could impact family life for residents of Butler, Lowndes and Crenshaw counties.

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Davis shared information on legislation around legalizing gambling, permitting the widespread sale of mix-spirit beverages and ready access to pornography on mobile devices.

Danny Dean, pastor at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church in Georgiana, said the discussion hosted by First Baptist Church in Luverne, revealed information on issues every person should be aware of.

“The issues [Davis] spoke on are important in our state,” Dean said. “Our state has stood up on [opposing legalization of gambling] before and we need to hear what they’re doing. We need to tell [representatives] what we want. “

Davis explained that the Legislative Session which began Feb. 6 opened consideration of the legalization of gambling in 2024, as lawmakers proposed a comprehensive new gambling bill that will, if passed, permit Class III casino gaming, a state lottery, sportsbook gaming, online sports betting and the establishment of an Alabama Gaming Commission.

Alabama’s 1901 constitution bans lotteries and games of chance, but 18 amendments permit some forms of gaming in certain counties. Proposed legislation, Davis said, will allow Las-Vegas style Class III gaming in 10 areas through a bid process. The areas include Lowndes, Houston, Mobile, Macon and Greene counties, Birmingham, locations already operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians and an undecided county in Northeast Alabama.

If passed, Davis said, the bill’s impact, by legalizing advanced forms of gambling, could be devastating to families.

“Sports betting is so dangerous,” Davis said. “It’s taking people down, costing them their lives. People have committed suicide because of these issues.”

At the end of the 2023 Legislative Session, Ivey, now governor, signed a law creating a Mixed Spirit Beverage Task Force to examine the selling, distributing and taxing of ready-to-drink cocktails. According to Davis, the beverages, only available for new at liquor stores, provide intoxication levels equivalent to half a bottle of wine or a six-pack of beer.

The potent 16-ounce beverages, available at approximately 900 locations statewide, would become available everywhere alcoholic beverages are sold, roughly 7,000 stores across Alabama if Senate Bill 321, also known as the RTD bill, is passed.

“The beverage industry is just looking to make money, but there’s a reality of how this affects people’s lives,” David said. “There’s a human cost. Making something that dangerous and normalizing and incentivizing it makes more people participate. But you’re on the front lines because you are the ones who sit down with a mom to say, ‘Dad isn’t coming home for a little while. He’s got a problem and he’s got to go take care of that.”

Alabama House Representative for District 90, Chris Sells, addressed the group and described his ongoing battle against ready access to pornography in Alabama.

“I’ve been working on this for five years,” Sells said. “[Settings to limit access to adult content] used to be easy to get to, but [manufacturers make it hard to get at. Access is built in by default. Phones are sold unrestricted, but I want to have them turn on restrictions, then if someone was to turn it off, they can.”

Davis urged citizens to be aware of issues facing families and to communicate their views to lawmakers considering legislation. He said he speaks with representatives almost daily, said has heard the same refrain, over and over, from lawmakers who say they rarely hear from pastors or church members. He also described how, after receiving calls from the faith community, some legislators have changed their position on current issues to pass family-friendly legislation.

“Your voice really does matter,” Davis told the group. “Lawmakers want to do right, but when they only hear from one side of an issue, and all they hear is people telling them to stand for unrighteousness, it sort of pulls them in that direction.”

To learn more about ALCAP or view information about current legislative efforts, visit www.alcap.com

The Alabama Policy Institute published a Guide to the Issues on Monday. Visit www.alabamapolicy.org to learn more.