The Alabama Senate started debate Wednesday on whether to allow residents to vote on a constitutional amendment to establish a lottery, but adjourned for the day without a vote on the proposal.
The outlook for both plans from Gov. Robert Bentley and State Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, remains bleak.
"We're still putting the pieces together," McClendon said after Wednesday's sessions adjourned. "I'm not ready to bury it yet." He gave his bill, which differs from Bentley's in that it would allow electronic lottery terminals -- devices similar to slot machines -- to be installed at the state's greyhound track.
McClendon said one issue is that the terminals can only be installed in locations that allow pari-mutuel wagering, and that some senators would want the devices installed in their districts even though their counties and localities don't allow for the machines.
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said just before the Senate was about to reconvene from a lunch break that a vote would only take place Wednesday if there were enough senators to endorse either plan. The Senate appears short of 21 votes needed to clear the upper chamber, with Marsh adding that there is a bloc of senators who are against either proposal no matter how amendments shape the bill.
"If it says 'lottery' it's no," Marsh said of those senators."We'll let the process take place."
Marsh said he is more optimistic that the state's $85 million Medicaid shortfall for fiscal 2017 would be funded by directing funds from the BP settlement. That plan may keep Medicaid solvent for the next years.
Bentley's proposal would establish a lottery while McClendon's would add electronic lottery terminals in four locations in the state in addition to a lottery.
Earlier Wednesday, Marsh urged healthy debate on McClendon's plan, which McClendon gave a brief overview of before the Senate headed to recess at 2:30 p.m. He suggested that the bill wouldn't be rushed through the chamber.
"There's no sense in getting into filibuster mode," Marsh told his colleagues.
The lottery proposals have been seen by proponents as a solution to fix the state's $85 million Medicaid shortfall.
"Greed has got us to this point," said State Sen. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, adding that the budget crunch also affects working people on Medicaid.
"It's more than dollars and cents," he said. "It's about people. It's about human life."
Ross, who didn't say whether he supported a lottery or earmarking funds from the BP settlement to fund Medicaid, said Bentley "turned a deaf ear" to the issue until it reached a crisis point.
Sen. Rusty Glover, R-Semmes, said he was against the lottery on moral grounds, arguing gambling would destroy families and create addictions.
"I can't support the lottery deals," he said. "We have to decide what is the cutoff point. How many families will it take before this is a bad idea?"
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