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Muscle Shoals
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Fort Payne

OTR: Senate to fold on gaming legislation? GOP ‘speaking’ highly of Strong; Wahlburgers leaving the block; and more …

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

Does the House always win?

It wasn’t a given that Alabama House lawmakers, including the 256’s own Rep. Andy Whitt, would take a strong stance on the State Senate’s neutering of the most comprehensive legal gaming bill the state has ever seen. Things are about to heat up big time. Yesterday, the House formally nonconcurred with the Senate’s overt clawback of their proposal, which was initially written to authorize casino gaming, an education lottery, online and sports betting, the formal structure of an Alabama Gaming Commission, and a constitutional amendment to clear it with Alabama voters. One thing it seems the Senate and House in this case are clear on is that, whether that election is held in November on the general election ballot, or the only show in town on a special referendum ballot in September, Alabamians will show up in droves to vote yes. The word in Montgomery is that it will be some tough combat. Whitt (R-Harvest) and Rep. Chris Blackshear (R-Phenix City) have been strong messengers for their proposal, and seem completely prepared to defend any portion of it. As they go line by line in search of compromise, the Senate could have trouble communicating as straightforward of a case as the House in the format of a conference committee. Watch this space.

Johnson set for a “Strong” visit

Speaker Mike Johnson is set for his first trip to Huntsville since becoming Speaker last year. Insiders say the visit is a high-dollar fundraiser planned for late this month and will feature the entire Alabama Republican congressional delegation. The visit is a sign that Huntsville and north Alabama continue to play a prominent role in political fundraising and is also seen as a feather in Congressman Dale Strong’s cap. To land a visit by the Speaker as a freshman member speaks to how quickly Strong is gaining friends and influence in Washington.

Finley’s made no decisions

Despite recent reports to the contrary, Madison Mayor Paul Finley says no decision has been made as to a potential run for the District 2 state Senate seat. Notably, Finley has also not announced if he will be seeking reelection in Alabama’s 10th largest city. 

Roark rocks

The announcement of Bill Roark stepping down as CEO of Starfish Holdings was big news in the business community this week. Starfish Holdings is the parent company of Torch Technologies, Freedom Real Estate & Capital, and Simvana. Roark has assumed the role of Chairman of the Board while Company President John Watson has been promoted to CEO.  On hearing the news, one apt observer remarked, “Bill Roark is regarded as one of the giants in his business in our local community. He is one of the few leaders in the aerospace and defense business who is universally respected by both his fellow CEOs and the political leaders that are important to Redstone’s future.”

Wahlburgers leavin’ the block

You can say “bye, bye, bye” even though that’s not the right group, but Wahlburgers is leaving Huntsville’s MidCity District. In a social media post, the restaurant, one of the first on the block at the Rocket City’s iconic live-work-play district, said it won’t be hangin’ tough anymore and its last day will be April 13. Meanwhile, a new concept restaurant will breathe some fire into the building in the coming weeks.

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