By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Tuesday, January 12, State Senator Jim McClendon (R-Springville) addressed the press about his bill which would authorize the people of Alabama to vote on whether or not they want to have a State lottery.
Senator McClendon said that everywhere he goes people tell him: ‘Let us vote on the lottery.’ ‘We want to vote.’ “I have heard it time and time again.”
McClendon said that he is calling for a, “Straightforward vote.” If the people of Alabama send a message to the legislature that they want a lottery the legislature will have to fill in the details. Everywhere I go I see people who are driving to surrounding states. They can not understand why we don’t have what 44 other states offer and that is an opportunity to have a lottery.
Sen. McClendon said that in polls 70 to 80 percent respond that they favor a lottery. I heard recently about a poll where 90 percent support the lottery. “These people would like a chance to vote. To indicate it if they want it or if they don’t want it.
McClendon said, “The bill has 31 words. The legislature will be required to fill in those blanks in the 2017 legislative session.” I hope to have this on the November 2016 Presidential election ballot. The St. Clair County Senator said that there is no backdoor opportunity for gambling legalization. We are estimating that gross income from a lottery would be $285 to $300 million dollars; but that was not my motivation for this. The people in Alabama are demanding to vote and if grass roots are important then they will be heard.
Senator McClendon said: “Contact your legislators and let them know how you feel.
Mary Sells asked if McClendon was trying to avoid the debate of where the lottery money would go in the State House. Sen. McClendon said that will have to be taken up by the legislature if that passes all the hurdles.
Sen. McClendon said, “Thousands of Alabamians are tired of driving to Florida, and Georgia,” to spend their money there to play the Power Ball. “The leadership is fully aware that Representative Harper and I were coming forward with the bill.” I do not have a count. I will be making the rounds with my fellow Senator to see.
Sen. McClendon was asked about the education lottery bill that House Minority Leader Craig Ford (D-Gadsden) has introduced. McClendon would not commit to supporting the Ford bill if his lottery vote failed since he has not actually read that bill.
McClendon said that the legislature would decide whether the state would be participating in power ball or some similar lottery or having our own stand-alone Alabama lottery.
Senator McClendon admitted that they did not know how much running a lottery would cost.
A yes vote by the people would not mean that the legislature would have to pass a lottery but it would be “mandate” from the people. He estimated that it would take six months to a year to start up a lottery after the people voted and the legislature passed their plan. McClendon said this is, “Not an instant fix for our current crisis.”
Alabama’s 1901 Constitution forbids the state from establishing a lottery. McClendon’s SB 19 would change that if the people voted in favor of the lottery.