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Wood gives state legislature update

VALLEY — State Representative Debbie Wood was present at Thursday’s meeting of the Chambers County Republican Club to update members on what has been taking place in the state legislature.

There’s a lot of issues that have been discussed at length in both chambers but await final action. With only seven days left in the current term, it’s becoming increasingly likely the governor will call a special session.

The Alabama Senate has approved a comprehensive gambling bill. It has to be approved by the House before it goes to the governor to be signed into law. The Senate bill has a lottery, class 3 gaming, sports betting and gaming machines. It would create four separate commissions to administer each one.

Existing casino sites such as Victoryland and Wind Creek will be allowed to stay where they are, but within a 10-year period they will have to win a competitive bid to maintain management.

Two new sites will be allowed, one in the Birmingham area and another in northwest Alabama in either DeKalb or Jackson County. Casinos will not be allowed near the state’s beach areas.

“This is to not interfere with family vacations,” Wood said.

Wood said she was especially pleased that action is moving ahead on broadband, medical marijuana and a visitation bill for family members to visit a loved one who is seriously ill during a pandemic.

“We need to have everyone in the state covered with broadband,” Wood said. “This is important for not just Chambers County but for the entire state.”

Wood has a personal connection with the visitation bill.

“It means a lot to me that my mother’s name, Peggy Hamby, is in the bill,” she said. “I was not able to be with her for the final 23 days of her life.”

If enacted into law, the legislation would allow for one family member per day to visit a loved one in a hospital, nursing home or long-term care facility who had a serious illness. They would be outfitted with a gown, mask and gloves like the doctors and healthcare workers wear who are allowed in these areas.

Wood said that people are still hurting over not being able to see their loved ones in their final days.

“Some people have told me they had to stand outside a nursing home and watch through a window as their loved one died,” she said. “Anyone in that situation needs a family member to be with them.”