Alabama House will take up state lottery bill Tuesday, vote likely Wednesday

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. — An Alabama House committee is expected Tuesday to take up the lottery bill passed by the Senate last week.

If it is approved by the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee Tuesday, the measure would go to the House floor for a day of debate, said House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Huntsville.

The Senate bill passed Friday night 21-12 after two days of debate. The measure is favored by Gov. Robert Bentley.

Bentley’s proposal would create a statewide lottery and a lottery commission to oversee it. The Senate amended the bill to direct the first $100 million each year to Medicaid funding. The Senate measure also directed that 10 percent of lottery money go to education, with 90 percent going to the state’s general fund budget.

The Senate on Thursday used a procedural vote to defeat a more expansive lottery proposal. That bill would have allowed lottery terminals at dog tracks in the state, added terminals to Houston and Lowndes counties and directed the governor to negotiate a compact with the Poarch Creek Indians for lottery terminals at their casinos.

McCutcheon said House members are aware that a lottery bill has to be approved by Aug. 24 to be eligible to appear on the Nov. 8 general election ballot as a constitutional amendment.

Alabama Rep. Mike Ball, R-Huntsville, said he’s not going to support a lottery measure. Ball said he doesn’t think it’s good policy and he has live with the votes he’s cast in the legislature long after his time in office is over. Ball said he recognizes legislative approval would put the lottery up for a vote, not establish a lottery.

“It is a constitutional amendment, that being said, we’re a representative republic,” Ball said. “If I don’t think it’s good policy, I shouldn’t vote for it.

“I just don’t think this is a direction that Alabama should take.”

Alabama Rep. Phil Williams, R-Madison, said he favors letting voters decide on a lottery.

“I believe north Alabama is ready for this, though I’m skeptical it will raise anywhere near that amount they’re saying,” he said.

Williams said the Senate measure meets his test for a “clean bill” that is focused only on a lottery. Voters defeated a lottery proposal in 1999. Williams said the circumstances are different today for a variety of reasons, including that Tennessee has a lottery today; in 1999 it didn’t.

“People say it’s immoral or it’s not a good thing. How moral is it for our people playing it to fund Tennessee kids,” Williams said

The Senate debate included a proposed alternative to putting the measure on the Nov. 8 general election ballot. Some Republicans argued the vote should be held as a special election. December 20 was offered as a possible alternate date.