Alabama Senate will keep debating lottery, House passes BP spending bill

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- The Alabama House passed a BP oil spill settlement spending bill Wednesday afternoon, but the Alabama Senate said it needs more time to sort out whether a lottery bill will survive a vote.

The Senate adjourned late Wednesday afternoon and plans to take up the lottery again Thursday.

Senate President Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said the voting margin for a lottery measure in the Senate was razor-thin and it wouldn’t likely come to a vote until the headcount was clearer.

Marsh has said he believes Alabama residents want a chance to vote up or down on a lottery.

The Senate had two lottery bills before it today, both introduced by Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Spring Hill. One favored by Gov. Robert Bentley established a state lottery, allowed the state to join the Power Ball drawings and created a commission to oversee the lottery.

The second measure introduced by McClendon would create a lottery, allow lottery terminals at the state’s dog tracks, and directs the governor to enter a compact with the Poarch Creek Indians allowing lottery machines at their casinos. The measure would also provide money for education and $85 million for Medicaid.

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The Alabama House debated into the afternoon on a proposal by Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, on how to spend a large portion of the state’s $1 billion oil spill settlement money from BP.

The $639 million spending bill would use about $450 million to repay money the legislature borrowed from the state’s Rainy Day fund in 2009 to ease the effects of proration. The money would also repay cash borrowed from the Alabama Trust Fund in 2012 to address budget shortfalls.

Much of the debate appeared to center on how much should be paid for overall state debt and how much, if any, money should be used for road projects in South Alabama.

South Alabama legislators have argued their economy was directly affected by the oil spill.

The sometimes heated debate was refereed by Huntsville’s Mac McCutcheon, who was elected Speaker of the House on Monday, succeeding Mike Hubbard. More than once, McCutcheon urged legislators to calm down.

The measure passed 91-10, with some north Alabama legislators opposing it. Projects in Baldwin and Mobile counties were slated for $191 million and $70 million was allocated to cover the Medicaid shortfall.

The bill now goes to the Alabama Senate, but it’s in line behind the lottery.

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