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Rep. Phil Williams Open to Voting For Lottery

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Friday, July 29, State Representative Phil Williams said that he would support the Governor’s lottery proposal, if certain conditions are met.
Rep. Phil Williams wrote, “A Special Session of the Legislature will begin August 15th.”

Rep. Williams said that, “Only the Governor can call a Special Session. Governor Bentley has stated the purpose of his session is to deal with a lottery vote. Any legislator can introduce other bills in a Special Session and that is common practice but again this is Governor Bentley’s rodeo.” Rep. Williams said that the State constitution of 1901 prohibits lotteries, so the only way that can change is if the people vote to change the constitution.

Rep. Williams said that if the lottery passes out of the legislature, it should be before the voters in November, when they vote for President.

Williams said, “A lottery is high-stakes politics. I am already seeing very passionate pleas from both sides of the issue and I hope that our State can get through this issue in a respectful way. Facebook and all its weirdness did not exist 17 years ago either and people can be so mean with Social media. As a Legislator I’m open to vote YES to allow the people to decide this issue. In my personal life I would likely vote yes as well if this is a CLEAN bill.”

The people thoroughly rejected the lottery the last time it was on the ballot, but Williams said, “Its been 17 years since the people were able to vote on this issue and I know people want to cast this vote. 17 years ago Tennessee did not have a lottery and North Alabama has likely been a major supporter of their budgets. Georgia and Florida as well I suppose, but I have never driven through their traffic like I have at the Alabama border.”

The conservative Huntsville Republican said that he would not support a college scholarships lottery bill: “The lottery proceeds must go to real government needs and NOT create a new entitlement program that must ultimately be funded from the Regular Budget. Many talk about College scholarships but that is not where Alabama needs the most help. We underfund health care far more than we underfund education. Being a vocal member of the House Education Budget Committee for almost eight years gives me a leg to stand on here.”

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Williams dismissed concerns that a lottery would lead to more gambling addicts, broken families and broken lives that usually leads to. Williams said, “I do not think passage of a lottery will lead to a gambling addiction in those that do not already have a gambling addiction. In fact, our dollars are already in play. Bring our dollars home.”

Williams asked constituents to share their opinions with him ahead of the Special Session: “Please share your thoughts with me, especially if you are from North Alabama. All my Tennessee friends, yeah, yeah, I know, you don’t want us to pass this.”

Rep. Phil Williams is a candidate for Speaker of the House to fill the vacancy left by disgraced Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn), when he was convicted of 12 counts of felony ethics violations.

Other candidates who are running or who have been mentioned as candidates for the position include: Rep. Mac McCutcheon, Chris Pringle, Lynn Greer, and Steve Clouse. Rep. Patricia Todd has announced her candidacy as well; but most insiders doubt that the House Republican Caucus is going to vote for any Democrat when they vote for Speaker on Tuesday.

Sen. Jim McClendon (R-Springville) and Rep. Alan Harper (R-Northport) are reportedly working on a constitutional amendment bill that would authorize some sort of a lottery to support the State’s troubled General Fund (SGF).

House Minority Leader Craig Ford (D-Gadsden) has already filed a lottery bill; but his would fund scholarships instead of prisons, mental health, and Governor Bentley’s ambitious Medicaid reform deal. Rep. Ford said on social media, “My bill would only pay for scholarships (and of course the payouts). It would, in fact, be part of the state constitution, so there would be no way the legislature could get to it unless the people vote to approve another constitutional amendment that changes where the money goes.”

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

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