LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — In a memo to House members late Monday afternoon, House Speaker Robbie Wills, D-Conway, provided an overview of draft legislation to create Arkansas' voter-approved lottery for college scholarships.
As it stands now, the legislation — which may be more than 100 pages when the final version is filed — calls for net proceeds from the state-run lottery to fund a new scholarship program to be known as the Arkansas Opportunity Scholarship Program.
A new division of the state Department of Higher Education, the Lottery Scholarship Division, would oversee the scholarship program. It would be up to the Department of Higher Education to "promulgate rules, determine eligibility of applicants and determine the amount of scholarship and grant awards," according to Wills' memo.
The scholarship program would have five components:
- The Opportunity Scholarship, which would require a 2.5 grade point average to obtain or maintain. Initial scholarship awards would be at least $1,500 per year for a four-year college or university and $750 per year for a two-year college.
- A Smart Core Incentive of $500 for students who complete the Smart Core curriculum.
- A Transfer Scholarship of $2,500 per year for students who complete an associate degree and are admitted to a four-year program.
- A STEM Grant for students admitted to a college program in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. The minimum GPA needed to obtain or maintain a STEM Grant would be 2.75.
- A Concurrent Credit Grant for high school students for up to 12 hours of concurrent enrollment courses approved by the Department of Higher Education.
The draft also calls for creation of an Arkansas Lottery Commission to establish and oversee operation of the lottery. The commission would have nine members — three appointed by the governor, three by the House speaker and three by the Senate president pro tem.
The commission would hire a director to direct the day-to-day operations of the lottery and would answer to a new legislative committee, the Arkansas Lottery Commission Legislative Oversight Committee.
The commission's chairman would appoint a 10-member body, the Lottery Retailer Advisory Board, to advise the commission on retail matters.
Casino gambling, video lottery games and sales of tickets to people under 18 would not be allowed, according to Wills' memo.
"This is a work in progress; the bill will undergo subsequent amendments based on negotiations between the House and Senate, along with your input and suggestions," Wills wrote.