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New Report Raises Questions About Scholarship Lotteries

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

How to pay for college is one of the most vexing issues facing American families. You get a college degree so that you can get a better job, so that you can afford to send your children to college, so that they can get a better job, so that they can afford to send their sons and daughters to college. We all know HOW to pay for college: set $100 to $150 a month aside every month from the day of the child’s birth in conservatively invested accounts.

Actually, doing that given medical bills, insurance costs, car repairs, the mortgage, school activities, clothes, rising energy prices, career setbacks, low wages, paying off our own student loans, etc. often proves more difficult. Politicians recognize the stress that college produces and many will promise anything…..including government paid for scholarships to get elected…..and since this is an election year several Alabama politicians from both political parties have proposed education lotteries to send kids to school for free.

A new study by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) by Daniel J. Hurley, PhD, looked deeply at how other states (including Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida) lottery paid for scholarships were working and found a mixed track record.

Alabama State Senator Bryan Taylor (R) from Prattville said on Facebook. “So much for that lottery idea! According to new report from American Association of State Colleges and Universities, in states that have lottery funds earmarked for education, state spending on education actually declines over time. Compare that with states that DON’T have lotteries — they spend 10 percent more of their budgets on education.” “I think the problem is that it can’t, in practical terms, be executed to work. You would have to have a legislature uninfluenced by the people who will actually make money from the thing, you’d have to have a legislature that wouldn’t supplant existing funding, etc.”

Graduate Student Kati Lebioda actually wrote the paper based on Dr. Hurley’s work wrote: “An Overview of Lottery-Funded Scholarship Programs Among the potential policy alternatives for improving college affordability, state-run lotteries with revenues dedicated to education have stood out as a popular solution. In fact, despite the slow economic recovery after the Great Recession, non-tax revenue sources to support higher education—a category which includes lottery funds—has increased by nearly one-third to $2.9 billion in 2013 from $2.2 billion in 2008.” “44 states have established lottery programs, 26 of which have earmarked proceeds for education—either K-12, higher education or both. Only six states (Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada and Utah) do not currently operate lotteries, with Wyoming being the most recent to approve legislation in 2013 creating a lottery that commenced in August 2014.”

Leboida wrote, “…the trend began with the Georgia HOPE (Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally) scholarship program was established in 199. The Georgia HOPE program initially provided scholarships for students with a minimum high school GPA of 3.0 to cover the full tuition at an in- state public institution or a set amount to be applied to a private college or university in the state. The Georgia HOPE program increased the number of students who stayed in-state for college, it also drastically increased the average competitiveness—or increased ACT/SAT scores and GPAs—of students attending public institutions in Georgia.”

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According to the report, Florida’s plan served the largest number of students (162,980) and spent the second highest amount of any state—$312 million. Georgia, near the top of the list in terms of both reach and expenditures, served 117,085 students at a cost of $463 million. On the opposite end, West Virginia has the smallest program, serving 9,954 students at a cost of $48 million. The average award ranged from $1,500 (Kentucky) to over $5,000 (South Carolina), with six of eight lottery-funded scholarship programs covering between one-third and one-half of the average cost of published tuition and fees at that state’s public institutions. The Kentucky scholarship only covered 17.2 percent of the actual cost to attend while the West Virginia scholarship was the highest at 76.7 percent of the cost. Georgia’s HOPE program, lottery-funded scholarships have acted as a lever to encourage the best and brightest students to remain in-state.

Leboida writes, however, that, “While lotteries appear to create a new source of non-tax revenue, actual proceeds rarely match projections. When a state first establishes a new lottery, it does draw funds previously lost to neighboring states’ lotteries, but these initial gains tend to decay or drop off after about five years…A large part of this is the cost associated with running and promoting a lottery in the first place. The largest contributing factor, however, may be the inherently inefficient profit margin of lotteries: after payments to winners, sales commissions to vendors, and lottery administration expenses, only about 34 cents of every dollar generated by lotteries ends up in the state budget (Bowden & Elrod, 2004; Covert, 2014). For comparison purposes, states typically spend less than 1 percent of the amount collected to acquire traditional tax revenues. Moreover, some researchers argue that when considering their high administration costs, lotteries affect state economies negatively, not positively, because dollars spent gambling could have otherwise been spent on consumer goods and services and could be subject to less wasteful collection methods of sales tax (Bowden & Elrod, 2004).”

Leboida continues, “Not only are lottery revenues more expensive to collect than traditional tax revenues, but they also tend to supplant, rather than supplement, general state appropriations for education. In fact, when lottery funds are earmarked for education, the risk of supplanting over supplementing actually increases. Numerous studies in the past three decades have found that while educational expenditures tend to increase immediately in states that enact lotteries, overall spending tends to decrease over time. States without lotteries, on the other hand, end up spending approximately 10 percent more of their budget on education than states with lottery funds earmarked for education (Covert, 2014; Heberling, 2002). This trend is particularly indicative of the unintended, counter-intuitive, negative consequences of employing lottery programs to support education.”

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Despite the hype, Leboida writes that lottery revenues are actually a fairly small revenue stream, generally comprising less than 2 percent of state appropriations to education and citizens in lottery states tend to vote against ballot initiatives intended to increase educational expenditures because the lottery proceeds and education are so visibly linked.

Meanwhile legislators in lottery states have used the lottery as an excuse to move other educational expenditures to other high-need areas like corrections or healthcare.

The poor typically do not gain by their state having a lottery, because typically for every dollar of scholarship assistance they receive they lose federal Pell Grant dollars they otherwise would have qualified for. Because scholarship dollars typically only cover outstanding tuition and fees once all other financial aid has been accounted for, low-income students do not receive grant or scholarship dollars above and beyond tuition costs, leaving them to struggle to pay for books, transportation, housing, childcare, and other non-tuition expenses involved in pursuing a post-secondary education. Scholarships like Georgia’s typically are awarded based on merit not need. Upper middle class children (who would have gone to college anyway) get the scholarships because typically they typically score higher on the standardized testing.

It pays to be smart. According to Leboida in the lottery-funded scholarship states, $301 million in grants were awarded based on financial need, but $1.6 billion in grants were based on academic merit.

Leboida writes, “Part of this shift away from need-based aid can be attributed to underlying ideologies: merit- based scholarship programs play into American values of democracy and the theoretical success of those individuals who work hardest. Additionally, unlike need-based grant programs, which inherently benefit only the poorest students, non-need-based programs can also support middle- and upper- income households—populations that tend to vote at higher percentages. Yet there is significant evidence that rewarding the notion of ‘merit’ only presents an illusion of fairness among student populations…Research shows that merit-based programs disproportionately benefit white and higher income families. These programs’ eligibility standards are designed to limit the pool of students who qualify for award dollars, but in doing so, they often restrict funds to those students with greater financial resources.”

According to Leboida, only 52 percent of high school graduates from the lowest 20 percent of income households enroll in college within one year after graduation, while 82 percent of students at the highest fifth in family income do. However only 26 percent of the lowest fifth get a bachelor’s degree in five years versus 58 percent of those in the highest fifth of income finish with a degree.

Leboida writes that since lower income people are much more likely to play the lottery, “In essence, poor families are helping send wealthy students to college. Moreover, due to the aggressive nature of lottery advertising and the addictive nature of gambling in general, some critics even argue that the lottery is considerably less voluntary than a traditional economic model typically allows.”

Since State-run lotteries, as an arm of the government, are not subject to the Federal Trade Commission’s truth-in-advertising regulations, Leboida writes, “Many lottery advertising campaigns exploit the addictive nature of gambling to prey on especially vulnerable populations like minorities, low-income families, the elderly, and high school drop-outs (Heberling, 2002). Furthermore, as lottery revenues decay over time, states must invest in more aggressive ad campaigns and create new, more addicting games in order to keep revenues flowing. It is paradoxical for a state government to exploit public ignorance involving the detrimental consequences of gambling in order to help fund public enlightenment through a college education (Selingo, 1999). This ethical ambiguity is particularly salient given the unequally regressive nature of lotteries, and the pattern of decreased state appropriations from the general budget when states earmark lottery revenues for education.”

Democratic candidate for Governor of Alabama, Parker Griffith, has made a lottery one of his campaign promises. Republican incumbent Robert Bentley has said he will not oppose efforts by legislators to pass lottery legislation, but has said that revenues from a lottery should at least partially go to the State’s troubled general fund, where corrections and Medicaid are facing critical funding challenges.

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Aerospace and Defense

Jones criticized for voting to limit Trump’s war powers authority

Brandon Moseley

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Thursday, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) voted in favor of S.J.Res.68, a resolution which directs the removal of United States military from hostilities against the Islamic Republic of Iran that have not been authorized by Congress. Jones has been criticized by Republicans for voting to limit President Donald J. Trump’s war powers on Iran.

“Before a President can lead us into war, he or she must first earn the support of the American people and also fulfill their solemn constitutional obligation to seek approval from Congress,” Sen. Jones said in a statement. “While the President has the power to protect Americans in the case of an imminent attack, that authority does not extend to committing our service members to long-term hostilities unilaterally. This resolution sends a strong message that we will follow the Constitution and we will not send our troops into harm’s way without the serious consideration and consent of the Congress.”

Trump Victory National Finance Committee member Perry O. Hooper Jr. released a statement in response.

“Senator Jones once again turned his back on Alabama and voted as the leftwing Democrats commanded. He has no regard for the values, opinions or views of Alabamians,” Hooper said. “He sees us as deplorables just like the elites of the Democratic party who have funded 80 percent of his doomed campaign for re-election.:

Hooper stated, “I whole heartily support the President who stated ‘We are doing very well with Iran and this is not the time to show weakness… If my hands were tied, Iran would have a field day. Sends a very bad signal. The Democrats are only doing this as an attempt to embarrass the Republican Party.’”

“The Commander-in-chief must be free to work with his staff and his military leaders to conduct covert operations like the one that eliminated Iran’s terrorist-in-chief General Soleimani,” Hooper added. “You can’t micromanage the war on terrorism. The Democrats in Congress are so filled with Trump Derangement Syndrome that no matter how much it would benefit our country and the world; they would never give Trump a “victory”. If it came down to it, they would leak everything to the media no matter what the consequences.”

Senator Jones is a cosponsor of the legislation and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Eight moderate Republicans voted with the Democrats on the resolution.

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Senator Jones has also been criticized by Republicans for his comments that he was “appalled” by Pres. Trump’s actions following his acquittal on both Articles of Impeachment.

“Newsflash for Senator Doug Jones: Most Alabamians have been appalled by his actions his entire time in office,” former Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. “It’s about time we send Doug home, and replace him with someone who understands our values. Alabamians deserve a Senator they can be proud of again.”

Sessions is a candidate for the Republican nomination for Jones’ Senate seat.

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The Republican primary will be on March 3.

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Moore says the Constitution is under God’s laws

Brandon Moseley

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Saturday, Senate candidate former Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) presented his views on the Constitution and the sovereignty of God to attendees of the Conservative Leadership Conference in Florence.

“The form of government is both the Declaration and the Constitution,” Judge Moore said.

Moore argued that the rights granted to the citizens in the Bill of Rights do not come from the Constitution itself; but rather from God and the Constitution is there to protect those rights that God has ordained.

“The Constitution is the supreme law of the land; but the Constitution is under the rule of God,” Moore stated. “We as Americans, as Republicans as Democrats should go back to the Constitution.”

“Democrats are trying to move us toward a socialist government,” Moore warned. “The same people who want to take our guns away want to take prayer out of schools.”

“Most Christians do not understand the Ten Commandments,” Moore said. The first four are the duties that we owe to God and the last six are the duties that we owe to each other.

Moore quoted from Washington, Blackstone, and the 1954 legislation that inserted “under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance.

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Moore said that Project Birmingham used Russian style tactics to undermine the support for Roy Moore and build up support for Doug Jones. Moore also blamed Richard Shelby for his defeat.

Moore said that Democrats have used similar smears liked the ones used against him in 2017 against Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas.

“When you vote is stolen from you by tactics that is wrong,” Moore said/

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Moore warned that the greatest threat to this nation is the decline in morality. “We are at a critical point in our history.”

Moore warned that no nation could take us down from without; but that we could fall from within and warned of the growing agenda of the LGBTQ community.

“We are starting to recognize transgender rights above the right of your rights,” Moore warned.

“We are five votes (in the Senate) away from overturning everything our country is founded upon,” Moore warned if the Equality Act is passed. The Equality Act, “Which sounds good is about to take away the most precious thing our country is founded upon: our freedom of conscious.”

Moore warned that the legislation would lead to men in girls’ bathrooms and in girls’ sports.

Moore said that when man invents rights that are not from God it leads to problems. The right to privacy was invented and from that came the right to abortion, which has resulted in the deaths of millions, the right to sodomy, and the right to gay marriage. Now we are about to create a right of transgenderism.

Moore said that marriage was ordained by God as between one man and one woman. “If you can make it between two men you could make it between five men and between a man and a horse.”

“How do you correct it?” Moore asked rhetorically. “You recognize the sovereignty of God.”

“I have been mocked and removed from office twice,” Moore said.

“I am sick of seeing politicians carrying Bibles and doing nothing,” Moore said. The national debt was $5 trillion in 2005 now it is $23 trillion. They say they are Pro-Life and yet Planned Parenthood continues to get taxpayer dollars.

“We keep quiet because we are afraid it is going to offend anybody,” Moore said. “I couldn’t keep quiet about Obergefell. I wrote an opinion in API.”

Moore is a candidate for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in the Republican primary on March 3.

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House

McCutcheon is in “wait and see mode” on medical marijuana bill

Brandon Moseley

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Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) last Thursday was asked by reporters where he stood on pending medical marijuana legislation.

“I am in a wait and see mode,” McCutcheon told reporters. “The sponsor of the bill has done a lot of work.”

On Tuesday, State Senator Tim Melson (R-Florence) introduced a bill to legalize tightly controlled medical cannabis. The Medical cannabis bill introduced on Tuesday is Senate Bill 165.

“We have a letter from the Attorney General,” recommending that the legislature reject the bill.

Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) is arguing that while marijuana remains a federally controlled substance the legislature should not pass a state law that would be noncompliant with federal law. Marshall believes that if medical marijuana has any medical benefit then the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be the appropriate authority to approve such legislation and the state should wait for FDA to act.

33 states already have legalized medical marijuana.

“It brings up a legal question when you get a legal opinion from the attorney general office,” McCutcheon explained. “It answers some of my questions and also on the pro and the con there were some questions raised in the legal community.”

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McCutcheon said, “That is why we are in the mode that we are in.”

Melson introduced a medical marijuana bill last year during the 2019 regular session. That bill passed the Senate; but had difficulty getting out of committee in the Alabama House of Representatives. Instead of passing medical marijuana legislation the legislature passed a bill extending Leni’s Law and Carly’s law and establishing the Alabama Medical Cannabis Study Commission tasked with making a recommendation to the legislature.

The Alabama Medical Cannabis Study Commission was chaired by Sen. Melson and met monthly from August to November. In December, the commission voted in favor of a draft proposal recommending that the state allow licensed medical providers to prescribe marijuana based medications to patients with a demonstrated need. The state would create the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission to regulate medical cannabis in the state. Farmers, processors, transporters, and dispensaries would have to get a license from the Commission and product would be strictly regulated.

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Despite the Commission’s recommendation, SB165 remains highly controversial in the legislature and there is expected to be considerable opposition to the bill. SB165 is 82 pages long.

SB165 has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Judiciary Committee Chairman Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) told the Alabama Political Reporter that there will be a public hearing on SB165 on Wednesday, at 8:30 a.m. in the Alabama Statehouse room 825. Opponents and proponents will both be given the opportunity to voice their opinions.

Thursday was the fourth day of the 2020 legislative session.

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Elections

Congressional candidates call on Sessions, Byrne to stand up for South Alabama

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At a rare joint press conference, the Democratic Candidates for the First Congressional District called on Rep. Bradley Byrne and former Sen. Jeff Sessions to stand up for South Alabama following the Trump Administration’s proposal to cut nearly $300 million slated for projects awarded to Austal.

“The current administration’s decision to divert that funding from Austal to build the border wall is harmful to our community and will potentially put good jobs at risk,” said Dr. James Averhart, CW05, USMC retired. “This is nothing more than a political stunt on the backs of the hard-working men and women of South Alabama.”

Over the years, South Alabama has become a hub for shipbuilding and defense projects developing ships and planes for the United States military.

“While the President may be comfortable playing political games with our communities, our representatives must stand strong against this disastrous decision,” said Dr. Kiani Gardner, a scientist and professor. “We are grateful Senator Jones is speaking out against it and the devastating impacts it could have on our communities.”

This matter transcends partisan politics, our Republican representatives must stand with Senator Jones and tell President Trump to find a better way to protect our Southern border,” said Rick Collins, a longtime Mobile businessman.

This is only the latest Trump Administration proposals that could have devastating impacts for the local economy. Recently, the administration proposed new tariffs that would have a significant impact on Airbus’ local operation.

 

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