The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for their consideration. The bill will be in a House committee hearing on Tuesday and could be considered before the full House on Wednesday for final passage. As this is a CA, the Governor is not required to sign the bill. You may recall that I reported in an earlier blog that Wednesday is the last day a CA can be passed to be included on the ballot for the General Election (aka Presidential Election) in November. I predict this will run down to the wire on Wednesday.
There is a lot to cover on how SB3 was amended last week. My intention was to provide links to each amendment and corresponding vote count with brief explanations but unfortunately the Legislative Website does not yet have those available online. The best I can do at this point is provide a link to the page where readers can view the amendments and roll call votes for SB3 when they become available.
Readers may recall that on Thursday we took a procedural vote on SB11, the bill that not only allowed a lottery but expanded gaming in certain areas of the state through Video Lottery Terminals - a slot machine by another name. You can read my blog from Thursday detailing my opposition to that bill. I was not alone as it failed in an 11-20 vote. As you can see there was limited support in the Legislature for expanded gaming but questions remained on support for a simple lottery.
Shortly after that vote the Senate began to debate the much simpler and cleaner lottery bill, SB3. Several amendments were offered and debated but it became clear the body was not ready to vote Thursday evening. Leadership wisely adjourned and we reconvened Friday to debate the bill further.
The first amendments considered on Friday were my amendments to provide some funding for education from lottery proceeds. I offered two amendments to split proceeds between the General Fund Budget and the Education Budget; one for a 60% - 40% split and another for a 70% - 30% split; both failed miserably. During debate on the 60/40 split I countered arguments from those opposing any revenue going to Education. There belief was that the General Fund needed revenue, not Education. I reiterated time and again during debate that if we truly feel that a lottery will pass the legislature and end up before the people for a vote in November we must include an education component. I recall stating something to the effect, "If you want a lottery to pass to help the General Fund with Medicaid and other budget shortfalls you'd better include an education split, elsewise the lottery will fail at the polls. Ask yourself this question, do you want 60% of the lottery proceeds to help Medicaid or zero, because you're going to get zero if you don't include education".
I have maintained a strong belief that without some education element the lottery will fail at the polls in November. I base this on the number of constituents that have contacted me by phone, email, social media and in person. An overwhelming number of constituents desire an opportunity to vote on a lottery with some or all of the proceeds going to support education. Now don't get me wrong, I've also been contacted by constituents who don't want a lottery, period. I respect that but as a representative of the people I have to consider the wishes of the people. Our State Constitution specifically prohibits a lottery. The only way to address that is through a vote of the people provided the legislature is able to craft an acceptable lottery bill, which SB3 has become.
Of note a 90% - 10% split for education was later offered and adopted by the Senate before final passage on Friday. But a paltry 10 percent split to education from lottery proceeds is downright embarrassing and I maintain will be one of it's greatest challenges should a lottery make it on the ballot in November.
I again want to take the opportunity to thank everyone that took time to contact me via phone, email, social media or otherwise to share their perspective on a lottery in Alabama. I hope everyone realizes the difficulty in making this decision. I have been clear in my belief that a lottery is in no way an acceptable means to fund government. I doubt the revenue estimates of $200M - $300M will ever materialize. Will we see $100M to $150M in revenue? Perhaps. And yes we can put that to work in the state. It is also important to note that the District I represent is considered a boarder District - less than 30 miles to Ardmore, TN where one can (and many of you do) purchase lottery tickets. As some were adamantly opposed to a lottery many more were supportive of the opportunity to vote on a lottery. If you are anti-lottery you are disappointed in my vote. If you are pro-lottery or if you simply want the people to be able to vote again (a lottery was last voted on in Alabama in 1999 and failed in a 54/46 vote) and settle the issue for another 10 - 20 years, you are happy with my vote. I had to consider all of that in making my vote to advance a lottery proposal to the people. We soundly defeated SB11, a trainwreck of a lottery proposal, and worked to improve SB3, making it a better lottery proposal. It is now in the hands of the House of Representatives to determine if it will come before the people for a vote.
Semper Fi - Bill