Lawmakers to vote on gambling, marijuana and trans bills

Alabama Capitol building

Legislators in the closing days of the session will face decisions on gambling, medical marijuana and a bill to ban the use of medications to help transgender-youth transition.

Posted: Apr 25, 2021 7:05 AM
Updated: Apr 25, 2021 7:05 AM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama legislators in the closing days of the session will face decisions on gambling, medical marijuana as well as legislation that would ban the use of medications to help transgender youth transition.

House Speaker Mac McCutcheon said he expects all three measures, which have already cleared the Alabama Senate, to get votes in the House of Representatives in the final days of the session. Lawmakers plan to meet for two more weeks and then return to Montgomery for a final day on May 17.

Here is a look at the three of the issues before lawmakers in the closing days of the legislative session:

GAMBLING

The Alabama Senate approved sweeping gambling legislation that would establish a state lottery as well as allow nine casino sites in the state.

But familiar sticking points are emerging as the bill heads to vote in the Alabama House: Where the casinos will be located and how the state will use gambling revenue. If approved by lawmakers, the proposed constitutional amendment would go before voters.

In addition to a state lottery, casino sites would be located in: Jefferson, Mobile, Macon, Greene and Houston counties; a north Alabama site in Jackson or DeKalb county; and the three sites owned by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.

The casino licenses would be put out for bid. However, the existing dog tracks and electronic bingo operations, such as Greenetrack and VictoryLand dog tracks, would be given an opportunity to come in and make a final bid to exceed the highest bidder to win the license in their respective county. The Poarch Creeks will have the right for the final bid for the site in north Alabama.

In trying to muster enough votes for passage, the bill gives an advantage to the largest existing gambling operators, although courts have ruled against the legality of electronic bingo machines, but excludes smaller operators.

Democratic Sen. Malika Sanders Fortier, who has been absent from the session because she is undergoing cancer treatment in Texas, is urging lawmakers to also include an existing bingo operator in Lowndes County, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state.

“How can we forcibly close the doors of a business that has existed for 20 years (in one form or another) in a small rural impoverished community like Lowndes County?" she said in an emailed statement.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA

The legislation by Republican Sen. Tim Melson of Florence would allow people with a qualifying medical condition to purchase marijuana after getting a recommendation from a doctor. More than one dozen conditions, including cancer, a terminal illness and chronic pain, would allow a person to qualify.

The bill would allow marijuana in forms such as pills, skin patches and creams but not in smoking or vaping products.

The House has traditionally been more skeptical of medical marijuana proposals. A medical marijuana bill in 2013 won the “Shroud Award” for the “deadest” bill that year in the House of Representatives. Melson has expressed optimism about the bill’s chances this year after years of setbacks.

“I think it’s going to be a close vote. I really do because there are many members who are supportive of the medical aspect. Some feel like it may be an opportunity for marijuana to come into our state and be a gateway drug,” McCutcheon said.

TRANSGENDER TREATMENT BAN

Arkansas this year became the first state to ban gender confirming treatments for transgender youths. Alabama could become the second.

The Alabama bill would make it a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, for a doctor to prescribe puberty-blockers or hormones or perform surgery to aid in the gender transition of people 18 years old or younger.

“Children aren’t mature enough to make these decisions on surgeries and drugs. The whole point is to protect kids,” bill sponsor Republican Sen. Shay Shelnutt, R-Trussville, said after the Senate vote.

Supporters say they are trying to protect children from decisions that should wait until adulthood. Opponents, including parents and trans youth, say such measures interfere with medical decisions and target trans individuals for the sake of politics.

“I ask you to take a look at our family. How am I hurting me or anyone else by wanting medical hormonal treatment? I do not want to be a pawn in a political agenda in which I was never consulted about,” Phineas Smith, a 16-year-old transgender boy, told reporters during a press conference.

Opponents say the bill will almost certainly be challenged because it singles out one type of medical decision.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 479326

Reported Deaths: 9353
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison32779484
Hinds30924582
DeSoto30319353
Jackson23542341
Rankin21235366
Lee14803219
Madison14120271
Jones13327223
Forrest13078236
Lauderdale11501303
Lowndes10377176
Lamar10163130
Pearl River9008217
Lafayette8193137
Hancock7404111
Oktibbeha6909122
Washington6900150
Monroe6459159
Neshoba6441201
Warren6387163
Pontotoc623093
Panola6203125
Bolivar6072144
Marshall6068121
Union571386
Pike5574135
Alcorn533289
Lincoln5283131
George466072
Scott454796
Leflore4444140
Prentiss443377
Tippah442180
Itawamba441599
Adams4376116
Tate4327101
Simpson4313112
Wayne430766
Copiah429587
Yazoo419686
Covington413292
Sunflower4123104
Marion4073104
Leake395486
Coahoma391098
Newton367274
Grenada3543104
Stone350359
Tishomingo333288
Attala324286
Jasper313162
Winston303091
Clay294173
Chickasaw286265
Clarke279890
Calhoun263940
Holmes261387
Smith248048
Yalobusha219647
Tallahatchie217550
Walthall209958
Greene206845
Lawrence205732
Perry198553
Amite197651
Webster195042
Noxubee177739
Montgomery171654
Jefferson Davis167442
Carroll161437
Tunica150834
Benton141533
Kemper138039
Claiborne126134
Choctaw126026
Humphreys125937
Franklin116328
Quitman103426
Wilkinson101536
Jefferson87333
Sharkey62320
Issaquena1926
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 778549

Reported Deaths: 13665
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1105871747
Mobile704651206
Madison49152610
Baldwin35946479
Shelby35796302
Tuscaloosa33410532
Montgomery32906672
Lee22231216
Calhoun20791397
Morgan19605326
Etowah18837449
Marshall17465272
Houston16452368
St. Clair15233293
Limestone14376182
Cullman14348246
Elmore14241256
Lauderdale13298278
Talladega12699230
DeKalb12036233
Walker10430323
Autauga9568133
Blount9555152
Jackson9235146
Coffee8728169
Colbert8426179
Dale8410170
Escambia6526114
Tallapoosa6501172
Covington6396163
Chilton6293141
Russell598555
Franklin5719100
Chambers5315133
Marion4734115
Dallas4665182
Clarke457076
Pike456294
Geneva4315116
Winston417192
Lawrence4086108
Bibb401680
Barbour341968
Marengo323183
Butler314988
Monroe314652
Pickens300470
Randolph299955
Henry298356
Hale289383
Cherokee284652
Fayette275672
Washington244848
Crenshaw235168
Clay225163
Macon217657
Cleburne217149
Lamar192140
Conecuh179646
Lowndes170158
Coosa166432
Wilcox155736
Bullock147742
Perry136036
Sumter124136
Greene120142
Choctaw72826
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