MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Attorney General's Office has spent nearly $895,000 since 2011 on its fight against electronic bingo and illegal gambling, according to information obtained by The Decatur Daily.

The figure didn't come from the agency, but a north Alabama lawmaker who also had requested it.

The newspaper is awaiting response from the agency to a public records request about that expense and the cost of other recent and high-profile cases.

On Aug. 13, the newspaper filed a request under the state's public records laws asking for a tally of expenses related to illegal gaming, defending the 2011 anti-illegal immigration law, the 2013 Women's Health and Safety Act and the 2013 Alabama Accountability Act.

The office said last week that it is still processing that request. State public record rules say public agencies should respond to requests from the media or private citizens in a "reasonable" amount of time.

But last month, state Sen. Paul Sanford, R-Huntsville, asked in a public meeting for expenses related to gaming.

Sanford, a member of the Legislature's contract review committee, which monitors agencies' spending with private companies and individuals, was questioning a two-year, $30,000 contract with a Virginia-based expert on gaming operations.

On Thursday, Sanford said he had received an answer to his request: $894,950 since January 2011, when Luther Strange took office, through Aug. 11 of this year.

Sanford said that figure is about what he expected.

"That's a lot of money," he said.

The attorney general's office previously said that it does not track the hours its own team of attorneys spends on cases, but it does track other expenses, including work it contracts out and for paid experts.

In July 2013, The Daily reported the office had spent $360,000 on outside legal help related to gambling in the prior two years.

Meanwhile, the attorney general's office has defended several laws passed by the Legislature in recent years.

Last year, the state agreed to settle some challenges over the 2011 anti-immigration law, which had mostly been gutted in federal court. As part of the agreement, the state would pay $350,000 in attorney fees and expenses for groups that sued to block the law. Another settlement was made this year and the state agreed to pay another $230,000.

The attorney general is also representing the state, defending the 2013 Women's Health and Safety Act, which lawmakers said was designed to make abortions safer. Opponents of the law said it was meant to restrict access to the procedure.

One of the new regulations requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, but several doctors live outside the state and wouldn't be able to get the privilege. Last month, a federal judge said the law was unconstitutional and continued a block on its enforcement until he makes a final ruling.

Another piece of legislation that turned into litigation is the 2013 Alabama Accountability Act, which lets parents receive a tax credit if they move their children from the state's lowest-performing public schools to private ones.

In April, a federal judge threw out a lawsuit brought by a group of families who said they were treated unequally under the act. Last fall, the state Supreme Court threw out a challenge to the law brought by the Alabama Education Association.

Last year, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, had a $100,000 contract with a private attorney to represent him in lawsuits related to the act. Marsh is considered the architect of the legislation and its passage.

Mary Sell covers state government for The Decatur Daily. She can be reached at msell@decaturdaily.com. Follow on Twitter @DD_MarySell.

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(2) comments

Jimmy Jeffreys

Yes, Keep voting Republican Alabama. One day maybe you all will learn. It is time we vote Big Luther OUT!

Orville Wahoski

Commiting anything illegal is a crime and should be arrested. So if gambling is illegal , then one third of the entire residents of Alabama should be put in jail. Go to surrounding states when lottery tickets are sold and look at the amount of cars with Alabama licnse plates. MOre than 3/4 of the lots are filled with Alabaians. Does it make a different if you gamble inside the state of outside, it's still gambling. Alabama should create a State Lottery and it'll surprise you how much money it can aquire. Schools, businesses, city services, etc. would be paid ofr by that and the state would not have to raise taxes on residents that are barely getting by on their income now. Get smart, get a lottery.

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