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Arkansas Lottery Commision takes shape

Apr 4, 2009, 10:39 am

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Arkansas Lottery

Confusion over salary cap for director position

Arkansas House Speaker Robbie Wills appointed three members to the newly created Arkansas Lottery Commission, and his lottery "cleanup" bill to clarify the salary of the commission's director cleared a committee Wednesday.

Wills appointed Joe White of Conway, Mike Malone of Fayetteville, and Susan Ward-Jones of Marion.

"I established a criteria [for appointees] of honesty, integrity, and state and community responsibility," Wills said. "These three appointees meet those criteria and more."

Senate President Pro Tempore Bob Johnson, D-Bigelow, made his three appointments last week, and Gov. Mike Beebe is to make his appointments next week.

White, a former trustee at the University of Central Arkansas, ran as a Democrat for the state Senate last year, receiving the endorsement of Wills and Beebe. But he failed to unseat Sen. Gilbert Baker, R-Conway.

During his campaign, he said he supported and would vote for the constitutional amendment authorizing the lotteries, which passed.

"It's a long desire of mine to help people have an opportunity to attend college," White said. "The lottery is a step in the right direction. Hopefully, the commission, if we do our work right, it'll be effective and transparent."

White, 65, owns a convenience store and is a banker. He's a former general manager of a car dealership. Malone, 39, is the son of former state Sen. David Malone, D-Fayetteville. "I'm excited, and its a great opportunity to increase the college-going rate in this state," he said. "We need to set this program up right and get it going quickly."

Legislators have said they hope to have lottery tickets sold by the end of the year and scholarships available by the fall of 2010.

Mike Malone is the executive director of the Northwest Arkansas Council, an economic development group. He got to know Wills in that capacity during the 2007 session, lobbying for highway improvements.

Previously, he worked as a congressional aide in Washington, D.C., and as an assistant in the Clinton White House.

Ward-Jones, 44, is a doctor and chief executive officer of East Arkansas Family Health Center in West Memphis. She got to know Wills in lobbying for the cigarette tax to raise money for health issues, including community health centers.

"I'm honored to bring a voice to the table from eastern Arkansas," said Ward-Jones, the wife of Steve Jones, deputy director of the Department of Human Services and a former legislator.

She said the lottery will help give access to college to students who otherwise wouldn't have the means to go.

Malone and Ward-Jones declined to say whether they voted for the lottery amendment.

Malone and White said they've bought lottery tickets in other states.

White said he's probably spent $20 or $30 in his lifetime on tickets while traveling in Texas, Missouri and Florida.

"I'm not a big player," he said. "I find them amusing."

Malone said he would buy them "on occasion," including when he lived in Virginia while working in Washington.

Ward-Jones said she's never bought a lottery ticket.

"I always try to keep my money in Arkansas," she said.

Commission members would decide whether Arkansas participates in multistate jackpots such as Powerball. The appointees said they are still looking at that.

Johnson appointed former congressman and Supreme Court Justice Ray Thornton of Little Rock; Patty Lynn Shipp of Morrilton, co-owner of an oil distribution company; and Derrick W. Smith of Little Rock, an attorney.

In the lottery legislation signed into law last week, Act 606 by Wills, it wasn't clear what the maximum compensation for the director could be.

The legislation listed the maximum salary as $141,603 and seems to allow the commission, with legislative approval, to add a special allowance of up to 2½ times that amount in addition to the base salary, which would make the director's maximum possible compensation approach $500,000.

Some legislators said that was their understanding, but Wills said that wasn't the intent.

House Bill 2243 by Wills, which received the recommendation of the House Rules Committee on Monday, cleared that up.

It says, "the total compensation ... including the salary ... and special allowance ... shall not exceed an amount equal to two and one half times the salary authorized."

That would put the maximum compensation at about $350,000.

The commission could also provide a special allowance for an internal auditor and chief operating officer.

The scholarships could be as low at $1,250 at two-year colleges and $2,500 at four-year colleges if the net proceeds are between $49.3 million and $60.4 million, and as large as $3,000 at the two-year colleges and $6,000 at the four-year colleges if the net proceeds are more than $126.9 million.

There would be no family income maximum to receive the scholarship, but a student could either have a 2.5 grade-point average or a 19 on the ACT to qualify.

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