Greene County citizens petition Riley

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 15, 2004

A petition was sent Wednesday to Governor Bob Riley signed by approximately 200 citizens of Greene County to stop the signing of recent local bills introduced by State Senator Charles Steele.

The two bills that passed the State Senate Tuesday allow for liquor sales and simulcast betting at Greenetrack and give raises to members of the county Racing Commission.

Eutaw Councilmen David Spencer and Lou Botick are among the signers of the petition, which states that Steele introduced legislation “without having the courtesy to even inquire with our local leaders” or hold a public hearing. “Senator Steele has taken this action solely on his own initiative.”

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The petition further states that specific citizens had asked for a public hearing with the Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee and were told there was no space available.

There is also concern about the health of Representative Lucious Black who has not been able to attend legislative session for some time. Councilman Spencer is concerned about Black giving his power of attorney to Greg Pappas, clerk of the House of Representatives. He thought it set a bad precedent and should be exposed.

Councilman Bostick is not against the bills per se. “”I’m not against anything as long as the officials of the county and the cities of Greene County have an input into it.

“….We had no input into the decisions to submit the bill, and we’re not getting proper representation from our representative (Black) who has a health problem and unable to attend. Senator Steele is not consulting with us….He’s making law without the political arena in Greene County being involved in it.

“…The laws are being made by a general few – not the general public having any input into it,” Bostick said.

“Senator Steele doesn’t touch base with anybody in the county,” Spencer said. “…He’s not our leader; he’s our representative, and he needs to consult with us.”

Bostick said that the majority of the Eutaw City Council is in favor of the petition that was sent to Riley, however, no official vote has been taken. “I feel sure that any sensible, responsible citizen in Greene County would be against that kind of irresponsible action on the part of Senator Steele,” Spencer said

Spencer did voice his opinion against the local bill granting raises to the racing commission. “They don’t have a single official function to perform,” he said.

He is puzzled that the bingo bill established the sheriff as the regulator of bingo gaming when there was already a racing (or gambling) commission established in the county. “Steele insisted that the sheriff be in charge,” Spencer said. “…He (Sheriff Johnny Isaac) is going to have to set up an apparatus that is going to cost a lot of money, and you already have a thing in place for regulation. Now, if he would give them folks something to do, it would be something different.”

The annual salaries of the racing commission members will be raised from $30,000 to $42,000 if the local bill passes.