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In the Weeds with Rep. Jamie Kiel

Rep. Jamie Kiel, R-Russellville, was in the minority in the Alabama House this spring when he twice voted against the gambling proposal that would have allowed Alabamians to vote on a statewide lottery and expanded casino-style gambling opportunities in the state. 

In a wide-ranging conversation on Alabama Daily News’ podcast, In the Weeds, Kiel said his opposition to gambling started before he became a lawmaker in 2018 and is multifaceted.

It’s a long-held belief of mine that we’re growing government again by expanding legalized gambling and I think there are societal ills that come with casinos and that type of gambling that I am philosophically against,Kiel said.

The proposal ultimately failed in the Senate by one vote.

Though he opposed the legislation, Kiel said Thursday there is one aspect of it he liked. Proponents of the bill said it would allow law enforcement more effective ways for addressing illegal gambling operations in the state.

“The part that I did agree with though is that we do have an illegal gambling problem in Alabama,Kiel said on Alabama Daily NewsIn the Weeds podcast.…I do agree we have to do something to address that; I don’t know exactly what it looks like.”

Kiel, vice-chair of the House education budget committee also discussed his concerns about a proposal to raise the state’s sales tax on online purchases. That proposal will come back in 2025.

Kiel also discussed Senate Bill 1, which he carried in the House, the GOP-led effort to criminalize monetary benefits for helping people fill out absentee ballot applications. Several groups have said they’re stopping some get-out-the-vote efforts in the wake of the new law, Alabama Daily News reported this week

It’s a very short law,Kiel said.It simply keeps people from getting paid or pay to assist with applications.”

Senate Bill 1 makes it a Class B felony to provide a payment or gift for assistance with an absentee ballot application, punishable with up to 20 years in prison. It also makes it a Class C felony to receive payment or gift for assisting another person with their absentee ballot application, and further prohibits anyone from pre-filling an absentee ballot application on behalf of another voter.

Kiel said he’d like to see 100% voter participation.

What I don’t want is for outside groups to influence our election in some way,he said. 

Kiel said he’ll bring back next year two pieces of legislation that advanced this year but fell short of final passage. 

One would require law enforcement to notify parents if their minor child receives a traffic citation.

The bill is named for Tyler JefferyT.J.Morgan, a 21-year-old Tuscumbia resident who died of blunt force trauma in a wreck in 2022. He wasn’t wearing his seat belt. His mother, April Vafeas, later found three seat belt citations he’dreceived as a teenager while he was driving a vehicle registered to her.

The second bill, known as the Pregnancy Resource Act, would allow up to $10 million a year in tax credits to be awarded to Alabamians who make donations to pregnancy centers. 

Pregnancy centers are nonprofit organizations that offer medical services to pregnant women such as testing and sonograms. The centers also provide women with information on alternatives to abortion, including adoption. 

Kiel said his bill was modeled after a law in Mississippi. It passed in the House but died in the Senate.

“These are mothers, these are babies and we need to do everything we can to make sure they get a great start in life,he said.

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