Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has released the legislation for his proposed lottery to support the state budget.
The three-page bill, a proposed constitutional amendment, says lottery proceeds would go to the state General Fund. A copy of the bill is linked in the Related Links section below.
It also calls for the establishment of a lottery commission to run the lottery. The commission would have seven members. They would be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate.
The bill directs the Legislature to enact enabling legislation.
The Legislature will meet in a special session to consider the proposal starting on Aug. 15.
The amendment says that it would not authorize any other activity besides a lottery.
As a constitutional amendment, the proposal would require approval by voters in a statewide referendum.
For that to happen, it would first have to be approved by three-fifths of the members of the Alabama House and Senate.
The bill would have to pass the Legislature by Aug. 24 to be on the ballot for the Nov. 8 general election.
The bill includes a provision that would allow reciprocal agreements with ongoing lotteries, such as Powerball.
Bentley said that was necessary to boost interest and increase the revenue that a lottery would generate.
The governor estimated a lottery would generate about $225 million a year for the General Fund.
Bentley proposed the lottery as a way to provide more money for state services, especially the Alabama Medicaid Agency.
Shortly after releasing the bill this morning, the governor toured a Montgomery nursing home, Crowne Health Care and Rehabilitation.
Like at many Alabama nursing homes, a majority of the residents at Crowne Health Care and Rehab depend on Medicaid.
"One of the, I believe, purposes of government is to help take care of those who can't take care of themselves," Bentley said. "Whether they're children or whether they're elderly. Whether they're disabled or whether they have mental illness. Whatever it may be. I think that this is one of the jobs of government."
Bentley said Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, would sponsor his lottery legislation in the Senate. He said Alan Harper, R-Northport, would be the House sponsor.
Both lawmakers sponsored lottery bills earlier this year.
Bentley said if the proposal clears the Legislature and is approved by voters, he would call the Legislature into session to write the enabling legislation.
The governor said the intent would be to have an Alabama lottery and allow players to also participate in multi-state lotteries, like Powerball.
"If it passes the Legislature, we'll immediately go to work getting some good people looking into other states, some of the newer states that have developed a lottery, like Arkansas," Bentley said.
Bentley said his proposal would not authorize any other new forms of gambling.
"I am really not for expanding gaming in the state," he said. "This is a simple lottery, and we want to make it as simple as we can so that we can get it passed."
McClendon said today he would sponsor two lottery bills. One will be the governor's bill, for a lottery only. The other would authorize a lottery and also allow electronic lottery terminals at the state's four greyhound tracks – in Jefferson, Greene, Macon and Mobile counties.
The lottery terminals would play lottery games but not the same games authorized under the state lottery, McClendon said.
McClendon said his purpose in offering two bills is to try to round up enough votes among lawmakers who generally fall into three groups.
Some flatly oppose a lottery. Some would consider a lottery only if it prohibits other expansions of gambling. Others are likely to insist on electronic gambling at the dog tracks as part of any lottery proposal.
"That is the art of politics," McClendon said.
It would take 21 votes in the 35-member Senate and 63 votes in the 103-member House (two seats are vacant) to get through the Legislature.
"I'm submitting both options to my fellow legislators and letting them work it out," McClendon said.
McClendon said he thought the vote in the Senate would be close. He said he was still putting the final touches on his second bill and would release more details at a news conference on Tuesday.
Harper could not immediately be reached for comment.
House Minority Leader Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, criticized the governor's proposal and said he did not expect most Democrats to support it.
In an email, Ford said the plan "does absolutely nothing for education."
Ford said it failed to earmark the money for programs in need.
Ford said the provision allowing lottery proceeds to be used to pay off debt means that it could be used to finance the governor's plan to build four new state prisons.
Bentley's prison plan stalled during the regular session of the Legislature.
Ford also noted that the bill did not include casino gambling at the state's four greyhound tracks.
"I doubt this bill or any lottery for that matter will even make it to the House (it's supposed to start in the Senate), and I highly doubt they have 63 votes in support of it," Ford said in the email. "Democrats as a whole do not support this lottery proposal and most I assume would vote against it if it did come to the floor.