LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A state senator who wants to abolish Arkansas' new lottery is scheduled to present her case Wednesday to a legislative panel.
Sen. Sue Madison, D-Fayetteville, will ask the House and Senate committees on state agencies and governmental affairs to adopt her proposal for an interim study "to repeal the authorization for state lotteries under the Arkansas Scholarship Act."
The committee chairmen were cool to the idea.
"The important message that I'm really wanting people to get ... is that this is something the Legislature can change," Madison said today. "I mean, it does not take a vote of the people. The vote of the people merely authorized and gave the Legislature the authority to have a lottery. It did not mandate a lottery."
Last year, Arkansas voters approved Lt. Gov. Bill Halter's proposed constitutional amendment authorizing a lottery to fund college scholarships by nearly a two-to-one vote. Lawmakers passed legislation setting up the lottery during this year's legislative session and lottery tickets went on sale Sept. 28.
The lottery is projected to collect more than $400 million in gross proceeds and net more than $100 million for scholarships in its first year.
Madison said she has concerns about state government promoting a form of gambling that she believes targets the poor, particularly during tough economic times.
"We get good revenue from taxes on tobacco, we get good revenue from taxes on alcohol, but we're not out there promoting people to drink or encouraging them to smoke, and yet we are encouraging people to buy lottery tickets, and I think that's probably not a good position for our government to take," she said.
The Senate and House chairmen of the panel that will hear Madison's proposal said today they will oppose it.
"I've not talked to anybody in the General Assembly other than Sen. Madison that agrees with her proposal," said Sen. Steve Faris, D-Malvern.
Faris said Madison's argument that the lottery amendment permitted but did not require creation of a lottery is "ridiculous."
"I know the people didn't pass that amendment and expect us to come up here and do nothing," he said.
A committee can endorse a study proposal without endorsing the sponsor's position, but Rep. Rick Saunders, D-Hot Springs, said he sees no need even to study the issue.
"I'd hate to take the staff's time for this. With all due respect to Sen. Madison, I don't know why she's doing this," he said.