Harvey Jackson, head of the history department at Jacksonville State University, is torn between wanting to be right in his new book on the history of Alabama politics–in which he explains why nothing much ever changes–and hoping the state is about to enter a new, progressive era.

What if the people of Alabama actually approve that son-of-a-gun? That sure will make me look silly.

Why, some folks will ask, couldn’t I see it coming? Why didn’t I see that a man with no meaningful experience in state government, a man with a reputation for fiscal conservatism that made supporters of the status quo salivate and reformers shudder–BOB RILEY–would come in, recognize the problems facing the state, and propose to solve them in a way that turned Montgomery-business-as-usual upside down?

Why didn’t I see that?

Why didn’t I see that Bob Riley, the Big Mule’s poster boy, would convince some of the biggest that his plan was as good for them as it was good for Alabama, and in the process split the Big Mule coalition into just about everybody on one side and Alfa, the Forestry Association, and one big bank CEO on the other?

And why didn’t I see that Riley would motivate ministers to motivate their flocks to support his plan because Jesus would support it if Jesus was registered to vote in Alabama (wonder what ID he would bring to the polls)?

Why didn’t I see all this was coming and wait to end the book after it did?

Well, if this happens and Amendment One passes, my only excuse will be–“Who’d a thought it?”

And then I’ll call Alabama Press to begin talking about a sequel. Because if the Riley plan passes, folks like me had better get ready to write a whole new history of Alabama.

And I’ll look forward to that.

Unfortunately, as Kris reports, passage of the massive tax reform amendment now appears doomed. A similar opportunity was lost a few years ago when a lottery to fund education was defeated. This measure appears to have more upside and lacks the religious baggage, but the potential losers have a lot of money to invest and inertia is on their side.

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Steven says:

    Indeed, financially and policy-wise this is far more radical package than the lottery proposal in 1999 (which I thought was amorphous and not up to the promised task). And Jackson is right, the old style rules about who will align where is out the window for this election. It really is the agricultural interests who favor a 19th centuray economy v. everyone else. The sad thing is that “everyone else” doesn’t realize that this package is in their best interest.

    Indeed, if Riley could find a way to get lower-middle and lower-income voters to realize that, in fact, this plan is good for them, it would pass overwhlemingly. Unfortunately, the timber interests and ALFA are very good at tapping into tax-fears and anti-Montgomery sentiment in this state. Indeed, they’ve convinced people who will get a tax cut that their taxes will go through the roof.

    It is rather frustrating, to be honest. And, as you know, I am typically anti-tax.

    And unless there is a miracle changing of minds, or there is a highly skewed turn-out, this thing is going down in flames.

  2. A state-sponsored lottery is perhaps the most damnable thing a state government can do to its citizens. They are oppressive to the poor in the extreme. All documented on the site I built to fight the lottery in Tennessee (we lost, unfortunately).

  3. James Joyner says:

    The site is interesting, although I’m not sure I agree with the analysis. It seems to boil down to the fact that HOPE scholarships don’t pay the full cost of sending a kid to school at a state university, and therefore it is a hidden tax. But, presumably, minus he HOPE funding, someone would pay tuition and the state/taxpayer burden would be identical. So, “taxes” only go up to the extent that not having scholarships disuade kids from going to school in the first place.

  4. Paul says:


    Don’t buy the “Lotto for education” shell game. In state after state they use education to sell the lottery. It is a farce. YES the money goes for education BUT then they take the money that was going to education and use it elsewhere.

    The “promise” of the lotto is that MORE money will be spent on education. That is what the voters believe. But that is far from the truth. It is a myth put forth by the gambling interests.

    (An example if I am unclear)

    If state spending on education is 100 million a year and the lotto will bring in 50 million, most voters THINK the state will spend 150 million on education.


    The legislature will then say “Well we have 50 million coming from the lotto so that means we can use that 50 million from the schools elsewhere.”

    NET result, the schools still get 100 million a year.

    NET NET result– The money from the lotto goes into the general fund.

    NET NET NET result– The voters get scammed.

    I am not familiar with the proposed Alabama law but that happens in state after state. I would be quite surprised if Alabama’s bills were not the same.

    It is a shell game that if a private businessman pulled he would be jailed for.


  5. James Joyner says:


    While this is potentially true and has likely happened in some states, recent switchers to the education lottery have been modeled after Georgia’s. Georgia’s system, which has been a resounding success, definitely funnels in new money, with the enabling legislation specifically mandating that the proportional funding from the general revenues extant prior to the lotter would not decrease.

    One can argue about the morality of a lottery as a tax on the stupid, but it’s certainly possible to create a lottery that provides additional revenue.