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Ford to Pre-File Lottery Bills

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Friday, July 25, 2016 House Minority Leader state Representative Craig Ford (D-Gadsden) has announced that he will pre-file a pair lottery bills next week in anticipation of the governor calling a special legislative session. Rep. Ford said he will also pre-file the bills for the 2017 Regular Legislative Session if a lottery is not passed during a Special Legislative Session.

Rep. Ford is introducing two separate lottery proposals. The first would only include a lottery. The second includes both a lottery and casino gambling. Both proposals would allocate 100 percent of the lottery revenue into the education budget for scholarships to two- and four-year public colleges and universities.

“Everywhere I go, people ask me, ‘when are we going to get a lottery? Why won’t the legislature let us vote? The bills I am introducing will give people an option: we can have a lottery, we can have a lottery with casinos, or we can reject them both. But let’s let put it all out there and let the people decide it once and for all.”

Ford’s earlier lottery proposals provided up to four years of scholarships to students who had been on the A/B Honor Roll in high school and were renewable for up to four years of education. Rep. Ford’s new lottery proposal would open up scholarship eligibility to anyone who gets accepted to a public two- or four-year college or university, and would only provide funding for the first two years of higher education.

Rep. Ford said, “The idea has always been to help people get a job, and that’s why I made these changes. I don’t want to exclude good students who may have made a few Cs and Ds along the way, and I wanted to make it possible so that, for example, if you’ve got a guy who’s been working in a coal mine for the last ten or fifteen years and he gets laid off, now he can go back and get his associates degree in a new trade.”

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) recently told reporters that legislators are being polled about the lottery. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley has told reporters that a lottery might be on the call for a 2016 Special Session to find more money for the State’s enormously expensive Medicaid benefits program.

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Rep. Ford said, “The lottery won’t fix what’s wrong with Medicaid and the general fund budget. Even if we passed a lottery for Medicaid tomorrow, the money wouldn’t start coming in for another year, and Medicaid needs money right now if we are going to avoid the cuts and save the RCO program.”

Sen Ford said however that, “The overwhelming majority of Alabamians that I have talked with say they won’t support a lottery for the General Fund. Anything other than an education lottery is dead on arrival.”

Many parents and grandparents in Alabama want a government scholarship benefit like Georgia has with the popular Hope scholarships.

With the prisons at 188 percent capacity, too few state troopers on the road, propping up the RSA costing almost a $billion a year, and a state Medicaid program that grows much faster than inflation or state revenues, many GOP legislators are skeptical of creating a new government benefit program in the form of scholarships/

Senator Jim McClendon (R-Springville) has been working on a lottery proposal to help the troubled state general fund (SGF) for almost a year and has promised to bring his bill to the Senate if there is a late summer special session.

State Representative Kyle South (R-Fayette) is asking voters for their input: “There is talk of an upcoming Special Session, one of the topics being discussed as a possibility would be allowing the voters of Alabama to vote on a lottery. An education lottery, a general fund lottery, or some combination of the two have all been floated in the past…what is your opinion?? Yes or no?? If yes, where could you support it being spent?? As a disclaimer I am not ready to commit on either side, especially prior to seeing the bill and how it would be set up.”

 

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(Original reporting by the Alabama Business Journal contributed to this report)

 

Written By

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

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