The people's voice of reason

Ed Oliver predicts a busy legislative session

The Alabama Gazette spokes with state Representative Ed Oliver (R-Dadeville) shortly after the 2024 Alabama Regular Legislative session began.

The Alabama Gazette asked Oliver if it is likely that a divisive concepts bill would be introduced in this session.

"It is incredible likely," Oliver said.

Oliver has sponsored a similar bill in the past, where it was passed by the House; but stalled in the Senate. This session the divisive concepts bill will begin in the Senate where it will be sponsored by State Senator Will Barfoot (R-Pike Road).

"Senator Barfoot will introduce it and I will carry it in the House," Oliver explained. "We have already passed it in the House."

The bill banning divisive concepts in Alabama schools originally banned critical race theory in K-12 education; but over time the bill has changed.

"It will not only address guidelines for K-12; but will also address diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The purpose of the bill is to stop compelled speech."

The Alabama Gazette asked: There is popular support for a paper lottery; but does the public support giving a dozen or so individual families licenses to operate casinos?

"That is a question that nobody knows," Oliver replied. "So few people are affected by casinos that the interest are small."

Many people favor the state negotiating a compact with the Poarch Creek band of Indians (PCI) that operate gaming facilities in Wetumpka. Montgomery, and Atmore.

"I don't think there is anything wrong with the governor doing a compact which would take a lot of pressure off of the Legislature," Oliver said, "In one recent polls, 92% wanted to vote on some form of gambling. They want to vote on it. That does not mean that they are going to vote for it."

Oliver said that it is the responsibility of the Legislature to give them a bill that, "If it passes is something that we can all live with. There are only four states that don't have a lottery with Alabama being one of them."

"I am interested in raising revenue for services like EMS and volunteer firefighters," Oliver continued. "I don't know if this is the only way to do it,"

One option being considered is legalizing sports betting in the state,

"Gambling experts tell us that sports betting is the most addictive and thus the most dangerous for my constituents," Oliver said, "Another danger is high interest credit cards and revolving credit."

"There are worse evils out there (than gambling)," Oliver said, "Everybody has the right to screw up their life and make bad decisions. I am a Republican with some libertarian principles."

The Alabama Gazette asked: There is talk of putting teeth into the gambling laws to shut down the illegal gambling operations. Is there a danger that we criminalize mom and pop gambling businesses while the state gets in bed with millionaires and billionaires?

"Why do we pick out winners and losers?" Oliver said, "Is that the purview of the state."

Oliver acknowledged that there are some businesses, even in his county, that have illegal gambling machines in back rooms.

"What are you doing to your local economy when you shut those things down?" Oliver said,

The Alabama Gazette asked: Are there concerns that putting a gambling constitutional amendment on the ballot in November will lead to a higher turnout of Democrats and could swing a number of down ballot races, particularly in Jefferson County against Republicans this fall?

"Of course that is real," Oliver answered. "That is just something else that we have to consider and remember that we only have a three-vote majority in the (U.S.) House of Representatives. This could sway the outcome in Congressional District 2 and give Democrats control of Congress, That could be absolutely detrimental to my constituents. We need to thing real hard about this."

The Alabama Gazette asked: State Revenues while at record highs are not climbing at the rates that we have grown accustomed to in the last five years, particularly on the education side. Is that slowdown in growth in income tax collections giving some legislators pause in school choice legislation that could divert funds from the Education trust fund?

"No, the governor has already said that this would be a priority," Oliver answered, "There is never a perfect time. That is something that we need to address. If you live in a small town that does not have a school that parents want to send their children your dead. The town is dead. You have to be able to offer a place where parents want to put their kids in schools. I do have some good schools in my district and I am terrified this might be detrimental to them."

The Alabama Gazette asked: There is talk of capping annual property tax reappraisals? Do you support that? And at what levels would that cap be 10%? 20%? Or higher

"I do," Oliver answered. "5% is what I expect to be presented. I know that because I have seen the bill.

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