MONTGOMERY — Gov. Kay Ivey signed Executive Order 719 on Friday, which formed the “Study Group for Gambling Policy.”
The study group is tasked with gathering detailed information to allow the governor, the Legislature and state citizens to make an informed decision on gaming expansion in Alabama.
“I am committed to, once and for all, getting the facts so that the people of Alabama can make an informed decision on what has been a hotly debated topic for many years,” Ivey said in a statement. “Without a doubt, there will be ramifications if we eventually expand gaming options in our state just as there are costs associated with doing nothing. Every so often, this issue resurfaces through a new form of legislation. By my estimation, we’ve had more than 180 bills regarding a lottery or expanded gaming since the late 1990s.
“I’m extremely grateful that some of our most distinguished citizens – from a diverse background including all regions of our state – have agreed to help gather this information,” she continued. “The specific data they gather will hopefully lead us all to making a better, more informed decision. Ultimately, I believe the final say belongs to the people of Alabama. As their governor, I want them to be fully informed of all the facts so that, together, we can make the best decision possible.”
The study group is made up of 12 individuals representing a cross-section of Alabama interests, including legal scholars, law enforcement, public servants from state and local levels, clergy and successful members of the business community.
All members of the study group agreed to sign a pledge adhering to the Alabama Ethics Law and will serve without compensation or reimbursement for their expenses. They will formally sign the pledge at their first public meeting.
The study group will submit a final report to the governor, the Legislature and the people of Alabama no later than Dec. 31, 2020.
The membership of the study group includes:
• Todd Strange (Chair) of Montgomery is the former mayor of Montgomery. Prior to his tenure as mayor, he served as chairman of the Montgomery County Commission, former president, CEO and co-owner of Blount Strange Automotive group and former director of the Alabama Development Office (the Alabama Department of Commerce).
• A.R. “Rey” Almodóvar of Huntsville is the co-founder and CEO of INTUITIVE®. Almodóvar is a licensed professional engineer and holds a bachelor degree in industrial engineering from the University of Puerto Rico, masters. in engineering from the University of Arkansas, and masters in business administration from Texas A&M University.
• Dr. Deborah Barnhart of Huntsville is the CEO Emerita of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville. Previously serving as the Center’s CEO and executive director, her career spans four decades of service in commercial industry, government, aerospace and defense. A retired Navy Captain, she was one of the first ten women assigned to duty aboard ships and commanded five units in her 26-year career. She has received an undergraduate degree from University of Alabama at Huntsville and master of business administration from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Sloan School of Management and the University of Maryland College Park as well as a doctorate from Vanderbilt University.
• Walter Bell of Mobile is the past Chairman of Swiss Re, one of the world’s largest reinsurers. Prior to his time in the private sector, he served as the Alabama Commissioner of Insurance. He launched the Mobile County Urban League in 1978 and is a member of the Alabama Academy of Honor for his achievement in civil rights, civic leadership and business.
• Dr. Regina Benjamin of Mobile is a physician who served as the 18th surgeon general of the U.S. Prior to her service, she was the former president of the Alabama Medical Association and provided health care to a medically underserved community by founding the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic. She received a bachelor in science degree from Xavier University of Louisiana and a doctor in medicine degree from the University of Alabama.
• Young Boozer of Montgomery currently serves as the assistant superintendent of banking at the Alabama State Banking Department. He is the former treasurer for the State of Alabama and has extensive experience with numerous banking institutions such as Citibank, Crocker National Bank, and Colonial Bank. Boozer received his bachelor of science degree in economics from Stanford University and a master of science degree in finance from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
• Sam Cochran of Mobile has been the Sheriff of Mobile County since 2006. He began his law enforcement career with the Mobile Police Department where he spent 31 years working his way through the ranks – serving his last 10 years as chief of police. Cochran serves the community on numerous agency boards, including the Penelope House, Drug Education Council, Boy Scouts of America and the Child Advocacy Center.
• Elizabeth “Liz” Huntley of Birmingham is a litigation attorney at Lightfoot, Franklin & White, LLC. After rising from an unimaginable childhood, she has become a nationally recognized child advocate and serves on numerous boards including the Alabama School Readiness Alliance, the Children’s Village Board of Directors and the Auburn University Board of Trustees.
• Carl Jamison of Tuscaloosa is a third-generation Shareholder in JamisonMoneyFarmerPC, one of the largest and oldest public accounting firms in the State of Alabama. He primarily works in the areas of tax planning and audit services to clients in the manufacturing, medical, retail, construction, and professional services industries. He received a bachelor of science in accounting from the University of Alabama and is a CPA.
• Justice James “Jim” Main of Montgomery is a former justice on the Supreme Court of Alabama, as well as previously served as a judge on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. Along with his 30-plus years in private legal practice, he served as finance director and policy advisor to Gov. Bob Riley, as well as legal advisor to Gov. Fob James.
• Phillip “Phil” Rawls of Pike Road currently serves as a lecturer of journalism for Auburn University. He’s spent more than 35 years working for The Associated Press.
• Bishop B. Mike Watson of Birmingham is the bishop in residence at Canterbury United Methodist Church in Birmingham and is currently serving as the ecumenical officer of the Council of Bishops. He has served as a minister in Dothan and Mobile. In addition to his work in the ministry, he is a past president of the Mobile County School Board, which is the largest school system in Alabama. He has a bachelor of science degree in finance and real estate from the University of Alabama, a master of divinity degree from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, and a doctor of ministry degree from Vanderbilt University.