On the brink of $1 billion in ticket sales, the year-old Tennessee lottery is the subject of 53 bills in the General Assembly to alter its operations.
State Rep. Ulysses Jones Jr., D-Memphis, who chaired an abbreviated meeting of the joint Lottery Oversight Committee on Monday, said the number of bills to change the lottery "was more than I expected."
But every bill's sponsor will not leave the legislative session happy, he said.
"I don't think you'll see 53 bills coming out of committee," Jones said.
Proposals range from paying for a pre-kindergarten program for 4-year-olds and raising the amount of college scholarships, to slashing the salary of lottery President Rebecca Paul and ending Sunday sales of lottery tickets.
State Rep. Chris Newton, R-Benton, a committee member, said the number of lottery-focused bills did not surprise him.
"We knew from the outset that there would be new legislation every year," Newton said. "We've been learning as we went along."
Legislators intentionally set lower scholarship awards to begin the program, Newton said.
"We have a covenant with the people of Tennessee to increase the scholarship awards," he said.
Several bills have been filed to raise the basic scholarship awards for students attending state four-year and two-year colleges and technical schools.
Gov. Phil Bredesen is pushing a $25 million appropriation to finance a prekindergarten program across the state.
Newton said he is open to supporting the governor's wishes if the $25 million is a one-time appropriation and that starting pre-K does not weaken the college scholarship program.
"College scholarships are the reason we have this successful lottery today," Newton said.
One proposal that is not likely to make it out of committee, members said, is one to end sales of lottery tickets on Sundays.
According to fiscal projections attached to the no-Sunday-sales bill, lottery revenues would fall by up to $76 million if it were enacted. That would cut the amount available for scholarships by nearly $23 million.
Two bills are aimed at cutting the salary of the lottery's director. One bill would slash Paul's $750,000 salary by more than half, to $300,000. Both bills would allow the governor, at his discretion, to approve a higher salary.
While the pay of lottery executives has drawn criticism in the General Assembly and the public, Newton said legislators set up the lottery corporation to reward good work.
"We're very pleased with the way the lottery has started off and the performance of its staff," he said.
Another lottery bill would require that contact information for gambling addiction help be printed on lottery tickets and be displayed at lottery retail outlets.
Paul told committee members Monday the lottery should reach $1 billion in sales this week. To date, the lottery has produced $246 million in financing for education.