By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Wednesday, August 24, the Alabama House of Representative Committee on Tourism and Economic Development passed Alabama Governor Robert Bentley’s (R) lottery plan out of committee with a favorable report.
Afterwards, Gov. Bentley spoke to reporters. The Governor said that today’s committee vote in favor of the lottery, “Was a step in the right direction.”
Gov. Bentley said, “This is not about a lottery this is about the people we serve.” “The people are asking for the opportunity to help their neighbor and other people.”
Bentley insisted that increasing funding for the state general fund (SGF) and primarily Alabama Medicaid by over a $100 million. “This is about helping sick children, helping the mentally ill the elderly.” Bentley claimed that funding Medicaid is a decades old problem that Montgomery has not solved.
The Governor strongly denied a report by Alabama Political Reporter’s editor, Bill Britt, that the Bentley Administration was negotiating with the Poarch Creek Band of Indians (PCI) on a compact accepting the tribe’s casinos in Wetumpka and Atmore as lawful.
The Governor said, “That is blatantly false. I have not done that and I will not do that. That is not true.”
Gov. Bentley asked for the people of Alabama who support his general fund lottery plan to call his office and said that they would be connected with their legislators.
The Montgomery Advertiser’s Bryan Lyman asked if Wednesday was still the deadline or if this could still be on the November 8 ballot if it passes by Friday?
Governor Bentley said, “That is the Secretary of State’s decision. I support Mr. Merrill.”
The Alabama Political Reporter subsequently talked with Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R) and he said, “The deadline is today” (Wednesday, August 25). “That is the law unless a Judge or AG Luther Strange approves changing the date.”
Merrill said that he had sent a text to Attorney General Luther Strange (R) asking for guidance.
House Minority Leader Craig Ford (R-Gadsden) told the Alabama Political Reporter that they have lost the November 8 date. “That is now a constitutional issue with Merrill and Strange.” Ford said there is no way to get that resolved in time to get the amendment on the ballot.
Gov. Bentley said that it is not the date that is important, whether that is November 8 or in a special election just after Christmas. Bentley said that the debate over the dates, “Is just a smoke screen,”
The Alabama Political Reporter asked State Representative Phil Williams (R-Huntsville) about a financial expert who spoke to the House Republican Caucus on Tuesday and said that the lottery could take as much as $750 million out of the economy to generate just $220 million in income, of which, only ten percent would go to education. So even if education gets $22 million back there could be net loss to education, since the lottery tickets are not subject to sales taxes.
The Governor replied: “You can do anything with numbers.”
Bentley said, “We have dollars leaving this state and going to Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida now.” I think those dollars would come back.
The Associate Press’s Kim Chandler asked: “Where is the opposition coming from?”
Gov. Bentley said, “There are some who are philosophically against any lottery. I can respect that.”
Bentley added, ‘there are some groups in the state who just don’t want progress in this state.”
Governor Bentley said that a lottery would generate at least $225 million in revenue and that would principally be for Medicaid. Bentley insisted, “We are doing this to help those poor children out there. We are trying to help them.”
On expanding gambling, Gov. Bentley said, “There are some want to see a vast expansion of gambling and I am not for that.”
Gov. Bentley urged the press corps to tell the people of this state to call their legislators.
The House will decide the fate of the Governor’s bill, Senate Bill 3, today in a marathon regular session beginning at 10:00 am today.