Let the people decide

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Like most of the state during the recent days, I’ve followed with great interest the political “yaya-ing” back and forth between Gov. Bob Riley and Attorney General Troy King. Throw in press agents from gaming interests across the state – well, you’ve got a veritable melee that continues to make headlines.

The debatable issue of electronic bingo has clogged Alabama news wires like hair in a drain. In the past, most were content to let the subject wash down …the out-of-sight, out-of-mind philosophy and all; however, now that drain is full and water is backing up in the sink.

And now that folks have gotten the drain snakes out to clear the water, so to speak, all sorts of ick are floating to the surface – like allegations the governor accepted campaign contributions to keep gambling out of Alabama and the other side hiring private detectives to dig up dirt on government officials involved in the debacle.

Lately, the best show has come from what amounts to name-calling on the courthouse steps by a variety of public officials, but I’m ready to say enough is enough.

Let’s all step back and take a breather.

I understand the law is the law – my fourth grade Alabama history class made that very clear, and the root of the problem is that the law governing electronic bingo in Alabama is not clear.

However, I think the biggest problem in this debate is that the focus has shifted from one of the legality of the issue to one of “I’m right, and you’re wrong,” and major players have lost focus.

An Associated Press poll taken in December and early January found that 41 percent of both the House and Senate members responding said they would vote for a constitutional amendment to make sure electronic bingo is legal and to place taxes and regulations on it.

Tuesday, I saw a photo of a father and apparent Country Crossing employee sitting cross legged on the pavement in front of the Houston County’s development, holding a sign that read, “This year had to close my business; got cancer. Now this! Let us work!” His daughter rested her head on his thigh. Her sign – “Let my dad work.”

That photo is a perfect reminder that there are lives of hard-working Alabamians hanging in the balance of this debate.

So, should we ask ourselves this – should Alabamians as a whole be given the opportunity to settle the issue of gambling in our state?

It’s not up to me to decide one way or the other – that’s up to our legislators. And as for the issue itself, I’m not for it or against it; however, I am a full supporter of letting the people decide.