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Serious opposition to gambling bill; a ‘really big’ announcement; Kellyanne in Bama; and more in this week’s OTR

Off The Record: The latest rumors and rumblings in North Alabama


Feeling lucky?

The Alabama House of Representatives not only passed a legal gaming bill without a special session — they wrote it. If the proposal, which would legalize, limit and levy taxes on forms of gambling, is passed by the Senate and signed by Gov. Ivey, local legend and State Rep. Andy Whitt can be thanked. Whitt and Alabama Speaker of the House Nathaniel Ledbetter, a fellow 256 lawmaker, began work last year on what insiders now describe as the most effective legislative starting point of any legal gaming proposal considered by the Alabama Legislature of the century. While those of us in North Alabama have been familiar with Andy Whitt’s exemplary ability to communicate, negotiate and get things done — it’s now crystal clear that state leaders in Montgomery do as well. A constant theme of conversations with those close to the Legislature is that Rep. Whitt and team, including Rep. Chris Blackshear and Ledbetter, have worked one-on-one with lawmakers outside the reaches of special interest groups. Some of those groups have historically proven vicious to legal gaming propositions that don’t check all their boxes. As attention turns to the Senate to take up a gaming bill written by the House, Pro Tem Greg Reed said his chamber is prepared to address the proposal with the same efficiency as any other bill they’re sent.

On the other hand …

Meanwhile, opposition to the gaming bill is mounting. Rumors had started circling that the Poarch Band of Creek Indians would oppose the bill before an official statement was released this week. An interesting tidbit to note, it seems Alabama’s only legal gambling entity didn’t see the bill or details until it was filed. The Band joins ALFA in opposition along with numerous anti-gambling groups. With the bill now in the hands of the Alabama Senate, insiders say there are changes expected. “Things are about to get very interesting,” as one pawky political player put it.

Lands campaign: ‘Really big’  announcement

A big announcement is reportedly coming from Alabama House District 10 Democratic candidate Marilyn Lands next week. Lands is facing Republican Teddy Powell in a special election set for March 26. The Lands campaign remains tight-lipped about the nature of the announcement but did reiterate it is “really big.” Quite a few of us are watching this matchup with bated breath. The special election comes after former Rep. David Cole (R-Madison) pled guilty to felony voter fraud last August.

Forgettable affair?  

After back-to-back historic gala dinners featuring former President Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Alabama Republican Party turned to pollster and 2016 Trump Campaign Manager Kellyanne Conway to headline their winter dinner last Friday. Conway gave what was considered by many observers a very long speech filled with shout-outs to her many friends and former clients in the room but with few of the inside stories that might have made the address more memorable.

Bigger smiles coming to Decatur

The state’s largest children’s dental provider is expanding in Decatur. Alabama Pediatric Dental Associates (APDA) is reportedly moving into a larger, updated space in the River City. APDA operates four offices throughout North Alabama. The new Decatur location will be double the size of the previous one and in a more convenient location, according to sources.  

To YouTube … and beyond!

Huntsville’s own “Ringleader of Fun” has launched a YouTube channel. Susan Blevins, owner of The Toy Place in Five Points, has launched “Toy Story Tales” on the popular video sharing platform. Surrounded by nearly every toy imaginable in the locally beloved shop, Blevins uploads videos demonstrating toys while also offering the occasional recollections and ruminations. Regulars are well acquainted with the famed shop’s old-school offerings and unique finds, as well as Blevins’ often entertaining commentary and conversation. Now, thanks to the technology Blevins frequently and hilariously struggles with, the whole world can become acquainted, too. 


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