Gambling, school choice efforts fall short in 2022 session

Gambling, school choice efforts fall short in 2022 session

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Among the bills that were discussed but ultimately failed were proposals for school choice expansion and a lottery and expanded gambling.

This was Sen. Del Marsh’s last session, and the long-time GOP Senate leader pushed bills to allow state funding to follow students to private schools and home schools and to increase public funding of charter schools.

Though Marsh, R-Anniston, won’t be returning to the State House, he said the demand for school choice options isn’t going away.

“Parents want more choice and that is going to show up in the coming years,” he said. “It’s going to happen, the question is, how quickly will it happen.”

Democrats largely opposed the school choice options brought by Republicans.

“We remain committed to standing up and improving the quality of public education,” House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville, said. “Let’s fix the system that is working for many Alabamians, and make it work for all Alabamians.”

Lawmakers flirted with multiple proposals for a statewide lottery and expanded gambling, but never committed enough to get to floor votes.

Albritton, who has sponsored multiple gambling and lottery bills in recent sessions, did not comment on carrying one next session.

“One person carrying the same bill may not be an asset,” Albritton said. “I made all the pertinent, important arguments that are there, and I think I’ve been heard…”

Also, a bill to allow people with unpaid traffic fines to keep their driver’s licenses died at the end of the session without a House vote. It had bi-partisan support from legislators who said restoring licenses will allow people to get back to work and help the state’s economy. The bill was opposed by Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall. When asked, his office did not say why Marshall was opposed to the legislation.

One controversial bill the Senate didn’t take up on the last day of session was one banning “divisive concepts” in state education and agency training. The bill was similar to others in Republican-controlled states and banned certain discussions about race and gender,  including that anyone should feel “a sense of guilt, complicity, or a need to work harder” due to race.

The Alabama Senate also failed to vote on a House-passed bill that would require Alabama 5-year-olds to attend kindergarten or take a placement test before entering kindergarten.