LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas House and Senate on Monday passed each other's identical versions of legislation to set up Arkansas' lottery to fund college scholarships.
The House voted 94-0 to approve Senate Bill 26 by Sen. Terry Smith, D-Hot Springs, and the Senate voted 34-0 to approve House Bill 1002 by House Speaker Robbie Wills, D-Conway. The bills now go to the governor, who is expected to sign them this week.
The legislation calls for creation of a nine-member lottery commission, with three members to be appointed by the governor, three by the House speaker and three by the Senate president pro tem.
"This is really a great day for Arkansas students, both students now and future generations of students," Lt. Gov. Bill Halter said after the Senate vote. Halter led the drive to place a constitutional amendment authorizing a lottery on the 2008 general election ballot. Voters overwhelmingly approved it.
Wills said after the House vote he hopes to see the commission members appointed a week to 10 days after the governor signs the bills. He said he has about a dozen candidates in mind for his three appointments.
"I'm looking for people with a business background and also an understanding of higher education scholarships, and people who are committed to the lottery being successful," he said.
The commission would be responsible for choosing a lottery vendor.
"If they can get the vendor in place by the end if the summer, then we can be selling lottery tickets in October or November," Wills said. "Typically, the last several states that have set up lotteries, from the date they have signed the contract with the vendor until the first ticket has been sold has been about 60 days."
The first lottery-funded scholarships would be awarded for the fall of 2010.