Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Gary Palmer: Democrats own casino gambling bill

  The Health Care Reform Bill the Democrat majority in Congress rammed down the nation's throat a couple of weeks ago and the casino gambling bill the Democrat majority in the Alabama State Senate rammed down Alabamians' throats five days before Easter share many similarities.

  For one thing, just like the Health Care Reform Bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, if all the Democrat senators voted for the bill the Democrats had enough votes in the State Senate to pass the casino gambling bill without any Republican support. They did get two Republican senators to vote for their bill - Sen. Jimmy Holly, R-Enterprise, a party switcher and long-time gambling supporter and Sen. Harri Anne Smith, R-Slocomb, who endorsed the Democrat candidate in the 1st Congressional District in the 2008 election.

  Two Democrats - Sen. Tom Butler (Madison) and Sen. Phil Poole (Moundville) voted against it.

  Just like their liberal counterparts in Congress, the Democrats in the Alabama State Senate were disingenuous in circumventing the rules of the Senate. In a fine impression of Sen. Harry Reid, Lt. Governor Jim Folsom ran roughshod over Republican senators who opposed the bill. Folsom said he couldn't hear them even though they were at the microphone only a few feet away and right in front of him. Interestingly, he said the same thing when he rammed through a massive 62.5 percent pay raise for state legislators four years ago.

  The dynamic is different in the Alabama State House of Representatives where the Republicans can take a stand and stop the bill. In order for the Democrats to get their casino bill passed, they will have to lure at least three Republican House members and ensure that every Democrat votes for the despicable bill passed by the Senate.

  The casino gambling bill is politically toxic and like the health care bill, the Democrats own it lock, stock and barrel. If the Republicans stick together in opposition to the casino bill, their prospects of becoming the majority party after the next election will be tremendously enhanced.

  Frankly, it will be tough to hold all the Republicans in opposition because the Democrat legislative leadership and the powerful gambling lobbyists are making some very enticing offers to swing reluctant Democrats and Republicans to their side.

  In that regard, there is even a Bart Stupak equivalent in Montgomery. Congressman Stupak was the pro-life Democrat who was committed to voting against the health care reform bill before he sold out at the last minute. Much like Stupak, Sen. Bobby Denton of Muscle Shoals was the swing vote for passing the casino bill. By switching his vote, Sen. Denton became singularly responsible for passing the bill in the State Senate.

  Denton's switch is particularly sad because during his 32-year career, he had never voted for gambling. Denton, who liked to be known as the "Singing Senator," was elected to the Alabama Country Music Hall of Fame just a few days before the vote. Sadly, instead of finishing his career on a high note personally and professionally, Denton may now be remembered as the senator who changed his tune on gambling and opened the door to the gambling kingpins.

  Another similarity between the liberal Democrats in Congress and the liberal Democrats in the Alabama Legislature is that both pushed bills that are absolute shams. In Congress, Democrat Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi urged support for the health care reform bill even though no one really knew what was in it. She said we could all find out what was in the bill after it was passed and signed into law. Similarly, the Democrats in the State Senate passed a bill that leaves out almost all the critical details. They are in effect saying, "pass the bill and we will tell you what is in it after it is passed."

  But almost every Alabamian knows that the gambling bosses of the Democrat Party will dictate what is in the bill.

  Finally, just as the liberal Democrats in Congress have defined the next election by giving the Republican candidates an issue to run on, the liberal Democrats in the Alabama State Senate have handed the Republicans something to run on in the upcoming election. With all the corruption that has plagued Alabama elected officials, passing what is in effect a "blank check" gambling bill should significantly increase Republican chances of winning control of the Alabama State Legislature.

  With this issue, the Democrat majority who currently control the Alabama Legislature have handed the ball to the Republicans. It will be interesting to see whether they have the discipline, integrity and courage to run out the clock and not fumble the ball.

  About the author: Gary Palmer is president of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families, which are indispensable to a prosperous society.

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