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Freshman Senator Plans to Kill Lottery

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

A new legislative session is approaching and as usual the lottery supporters are out making lottery proposals which normally go nowhere.

On Thursday, January 7 Senator Shay Shelnutt (R-Trussville) speaking to the Republican Women of Trussville predicted that the Alabama legislature will not pass a lottery or a gambling bill again this year.

Senator Shelnutt said, “I am against it right now in theory but I have to see.” “There is plenty of money we just have to spend it better.”

Shelnutt said, “The lottery won’t do what they say it will do.” It is just taking money from the poor and will just create more problems than it solves and we will have to spend money on those problems.

The freshman Senator from Trussville said that Senate President Del Marsh (R-Anniston), “Has taken gambling off the table,” referring to the complicated Indian gaming deal and legalization of dog track casinos that Marsh, Raymond Harbert and former Auburn Coach Pat Dye (among others) were promoting in 2015.

When asked why a lottery would come back after the people voted it down the last time, Sen. Shelnutt said, “It is always about the money.” The conservative Alabama state senator warned that casino gambling legislation is also likely to make a comeback during the session; but said: “There is a core group of Senators who are very anti-gambling.” Senator Shelnutt predicted, “We are going to stop that.”

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The Alabama Political Reporter asked Shelnutt what this latest lottery version would benefit. Would the money go to education, for scholarships, for Medicaid expansion, or for the General Fund. Shelnutt replied that some will likely go for education, some for the General Fund and some for roads. The lottery proponents will spread the money around to try to get support for the bill.

Senator Jim McClendon (R-Springville) told the Alabama Political Reporter that he would reveal details of his lottery plan, which is also sponsored by State Representative Alan Harper (R-Northport), at a press conference on Tuesday, Jan 12 at a 10:00 a.m. on the 3rd floor of the Alabama Statehouse.

The Alabama Political Reporter asked McClendon where his lottery profits would be directed. Sen. McClendon said that if the people voted to have a lottery then the legislature would then go to work on the details.

Sen. Shelnutt lamented that while Republicans make up 26 out of 35 Alabama state Senate seats not all of them are conservatives.

Senator Shelnutt said that his agenda is simple: He would like to keep government out of our business as much as possible and give them no more tax increases.

The suburban Birmingham Senator said that 2015 was an interesting year. The Governor asked for $700 million in new taxes, $500 million, then it was $350 million. “I voted no.”

Shelnutt said, “It is the same thing this year.” The general fund is short and there is a big push for more gas taxes for roads, I can’t see me voting for higher gas taxes.

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Sen. Shelnutt said that the legislature is chaotic. All of a sudden a bill comes up and you are voting on it. “It always sounds good.” “It is crazy we have zero staff. We have to depend on the lobbyists.” Shelnutt said that, “We need to slow things down.” “It really is a game down there.” “We knew the budget was going to be the main thing but it got put off.” Shelnutt said that the lobbyists do not want the legislators to deal with the budget early in the session. Shelnutt claimed that 99 percent of the bills in the legislature are probably written by the lobbyists.

Shelnutt said that right now four Republican Senators can shut everything down. “We were begging for them to let us cloture our own.” “Right now it is a weird dynamic (in the Senate).” “We have never clotured our own,” but when 21 Senators agree then we should be able to cloture and move on. Shelnutt said that that is likely to happen in this session.

The Senator also said, “It is crazy that our agencies can hire lobbyists with our money.” Shelnutt said, “I sponsored term limits; but it is never going to happen.” “We have got to get more true conservatives at all levels of government.”

Shelnutt said, “I endorsed Ted Cruz (for President).” But even if Cruz is not the nominee we need to support that person. “Anybody but Hillary.”

Shelnutt said of Congress, “I think they should shut the government down.” They control us with the dollars. We are doing things we don’t even want to do to get federal matching funds. “I am also angry at our Republicans. We are supposed to be in control.”

Sen. Shelnutt predicted that Medicaid would not be expanded in this legislature.

When asked by a member of the audience why the legislature passed legislation allowing Blue Cross Blue Shield executives to make their pay secret, Shelnutt said that he did not read that and did not know it was in the bill.

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Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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