Senate adopts bill, plans to revise second
Alabama Senate Passes a lottery bill Wednesday. But not the one who would establish a lottery.
The chamber approved the legislation on Wednesday activate a lottery after hours of debate and amendments that would use money to reduce the state sales tax on groceries and for educational loans. But he stopped before approving the constitutional amendment that would establish the lottery in the state.
Senator Jim McClendon, R-Springville, introduced two companion bills to the body on Wednesday afternoon. The first, SB 319, would create a state lottery, playable in paper or mobile form. The second, SB 320, would divide the lottery proceeds between the Education Trust Fund, which funds most of the state’s public schools, and the General Fund, which funds most state programs.
The Legislative Assembly Tax Office estimates that the lottery would bring in between $ 272 million and $ 358 million per year.
The Senate first took over SB 320, eventually passing it following a series of amendments, the majority of which were moved by Senator Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville. The discussion of all the proposed amendments lasted more than three hours.
The bill will be returned to the House for consideration.
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Senator Chris Elliott, R-Daphne, proposed an amendment that would use lottery proceeds to reduce the state sales tax on groceries from 4% to 2%.
“When will we take the opportunity to cut taxes in Alabama and start giving back to the hardworking citizens of the state?” Elliott asked Senator Arthur Orr, R-Decatur.
Orr challenged the amendment because it would remove any revenue from the Education Trust Fund.
“I understand giving money back to people, but all of a sudden you grab it all, and all these other opportunities that we wanted to include for educators are gone with this amendment,” Orr said.
The amendment was finally adopted. An amendment proposed by Orr to direct 5% of lottery income to the Retiree Education Trust Fund until that fund reaches $ 100 million was also passed by the chamber.
During debate on the bill, Chambliss read 11 possible amendments, but ultimately only submitted five for approval. Everything has passed.
Two of the five amendments set out strict rules for the gaming commission that the bill would create, prohibiting members or anyone with direct influence from participating in state gambling, and subjecting the commission to scrutiny by the Alabama Sunset Committee.
The third of Chambliss’s amendments mandated income distributed to the General Fund can only be used for capital and non-recurring expenses. Another amendment set the legal gambling age at 21.
The final amendment says that the lottery proceeds will be used to establish a post-secondary education fund with the possibility of loan forgiveness.
“We talked about scholarships. It’s a good thing,” said Chambliss. “Education is vitally important, it’s how the next generation can be better than the previous generation. However, instead of just giving this money, we should give this money in the form of a loan.”
The Chambliss Amendment proposes that for every six months a graduate who accepted money from the fund spent to work in the state, one semester of tuition would be forgiven.
Lotteries and gambling are prohibited by the Alabama Constitution and can only be created by constitutional amendment. If a draft law on lotteries or gambling were passed by the legislature, it would be submitted to voters for approval, possibly in the general election of 2022.
SB 319, which implements the constitutional amendment, was postponed Wednesday evening after McClendon requested time to consider proposed changes to the bill.
Senator McClendon introduced his bills shortly after the Senate rejected a comprehensive proposal by Senator Del Marsh, R-Anniston, on March 9. Marsh’s legislation, SB 214, would have created a lottery; permitted casino-style gaming in five locations and permitted sports betting.
“It’s just simple lottery tickets,” McClendon said Wednesday. “They’re not trying to fix the world, or anything else right or wrong. They aren’t trying to bankrupt anyone and they aren’t allowing any new casinos.”
Alabama is one of five states that does not have a lottery, and most senators say they see broad support for a vote on a lottery. But stand-alone lottery bills have failed in the past, due to the Cold War between the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, which operates casinos in Atmore, Montgomery and Wetumpka, and dog tracks like VictoryLand in Macon County and GreeneTrack in Greene County.
Dog tracks, which operate under state law, fear that a stand-alone lottery could give Poarch’s gang, which operates under federal law, access to slot machines called Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) that state law would prohibit following dog tracks. Although experts have expressed skepticism about it, fears have been enough to sink stand-alone lottery tickets in the past. Republicans are divided over gambling, particularly over casino gambling, but Democrats have insisted on measures to protect dog tracks to win their lottery votes.
Marsh’s Bill addressed the issue by giving both parties casino-style gambling. But attempts to include more operators in the bill contributed to its defeat. The senator said that in his view, a comprehensive approach is the only way to overcome obstacles like a state lottery.
Governor Kay Ivey said in a statement Tuesday that she wanted to see a comprehensive approach to the issue and that she would “dig in her heels” to remedy the situation.
Contact Brian Lyman, Montgomery Advertiser reporter at 334-240-0185 or [email protected]