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Odds not in favor of Alabamians voting on a lottery this year

Feb 19, 2016, 11:33 am

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Leadership in the Alabama Senate says there's less than a coin flip's chance a lottery bill passes the upper chamber this year.

Polls show the people of Alabama want to vote on whether to create a lottery. But, many senators say they want to make sure the right proposal goes before the people and they haven't seen it yet.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh was asked if any of the current lottery proposals stand a chance this year.

"I'd give them about a 40 percent chance," said Marsh. "I just don't think there's a lot of momentum there. Everything could change, however, after the general fund budget is passed."

"This is sort of a controversial topic for Alabama so it takes a while for some folks to come around," said Senator Jim McClendon (R-Springville).

McClendon is still pushing for his bill to allow the people to vote on a lottery. The bill does not designate where the revenue would go and leaves most details to be worked out later. He expects it to generate $285 million each year.

"I'm opposed to it," Senator Jabo Waggoner (R- Vestavia Hills) said. "There are no details."

Waggoner believes McClendon's bill is dead for the year.

Asked if there is anything the sponsor can do to the bill in order to gain the support necessary to pass this year, Waggoner was not optimistic.  "I don't think this session," he said.

McClendon said he is willing to accept amendments adding more detail. He says the bill is alive and well and he is not giving up.

Now, a new lottery proposal is introduced by Senator Trip Pittman (R- Montrose) and Senator Gerald Dial (R- Lineville.) It allows for multi-state lottery games only, like the Powerball. It assigns all the revenue to the general fund.

"If we move through this budgeting process and we see how drastically short the general fund is, there may be some opportunity to look at other revenue from other sources and that may be one of them," Dial said.

Dial adds that he believes the bill needs to be amended to also include a statewide lottery, like McClendon's bill allows for.

Senator Phil Williams (R- Rainbow City) says he is "iffy" on both bills.

"There is such a great deal of questioning in the way they are structured," Williams said. "We understand a vote of the people is where it needs to head. We know that. But you have to give the folks something to vote on that the people have already said they want and right now I don't see anything that has that."

In the House, Rep. Alan Harper (R- Northport) passed a bill similar to McClendon's through committee. House Minority Leader Craig Ford (D- Gadsden) also has his own lottery proposal in the lower chamber.

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