The Alabama Senate Thursday voted against a procedure that would have allowed a vote on a proposed lottery bill sponsored by State Sen. Jim McClendon.
"Procedurally they killed the bill," at least for this session, McClendon said.
Senators voted 20 to 11 to reject a cloture motion to stop the debate on the lottery. McClendon said that if the motion was approved it would have meant a vote could be taken on the lottery and would likely have had the votes.
McClendon said that on Friday he will be back to push for passage of another bill, one that Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has proposed.
The Bentley proposal is "simpler," McClendon said. It doesn't include electronic lottery machines at dog tracks and other specific location like the one considered today, he said.
"We'll see what will happen with that bill," McClendon said.
At a press conference after the vote, Bentley said he was "cautiously optimistic" his bill would pass. He said he agreed with a couple of amendments that were added to his bill on Thursday.
Bentley said he had talked to senators who were against the bill debated on Thursday and said he believes they will support his bill. He did not name the senators.
Bentley's bill calls for all the money from a lottery to go into the state's general fund.
After the vote Sen. Roger Smitherman said he didn't believe senators should come back Friday and vote now because senators will find a way to kill that one too. "They are not going to vote for it," he said.
"Do you think we'll even get a bill we can vote on?," State Sen. President Pro-Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, asked Smitherman.
Smitherman replied "no."
After the vote senators approved two amendments to the governor's proposed bill that will be dealt with on Friday.
One amendment approved, proposed by Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, was that the governor's bill would hot allow any other form of gambling or do away with any current form of governor.
McClendon had also proposed some amendments today to his bill that included the electronic lottery terminals in an attempt to gain support.
The amended bill included a call for a statewide special election on Dec. 20 rather than during the November general election, McClendon said.
During the debate Sen. Paul Sanford said that the lottery is not the best economic policy. He said he believes the state will end up getting more money than those that play it. Under that model, money won't turn around in the economy, he said.
McClendon said his constituents are tired of having Alabama money being spent in other states.
Marsh had said earlier in the day he expects McClendon, R-Springville, to present his bill, with amendments, for a vote right after lunch. The bill will have substituted provisions, which McClendon will explain at the time, he said.
Marsh had said he didn't believe McClendon's bill would pass but he was going to push for a vote on it. "I think he deserves it and I'm going to give him a chance," he said.
The Senate has been considering two lottery bills.
One of them is Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley's proposal (SB3), also sponsored by McClendon, which calls for a lottery run by a seven-member commission, with members appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate. It also would allow the state to enter agreements with multi-state lotteries, like Powerball. Proceeds from the lottery would go to the state General Fund, which means legislators would determine how the money is used.
McClendon"s plan - SB11 -that expands on Bentley's proposal by allowing for electronic lottery terminals – devices similar to slot machines – to be installed in Birmingham, Mobile, and Greene and Macon Counties. The terminals would raise $127 million in revenue a year, while proceeds from a statewide and Powerball lottery would inject $285 million to $310 million a year into state coffers, the senator has said.
McClendon said today that he was most interested in giving the people the right to vote on a lottery. "What that recorded vote will do will give these senators an opportunity to go on the record exactly where they stand on allowing the people to vote," he said.
McClendon said after Thursday morning's session that among the changes he made to his bill were:
- Changing the date of the proposed statewide vote on the lottery amendment to away from the Nov. 8 General Election to a special election at a later time. He said he was doing that at the request of Jefferson County Republicans.
- Adding more locations for the lottery terminals, including in Houston and Lowndes counties. According to a copy of the amended bill, the terminals could be in any facility in Lowdnes County authorized by the town of White Hall.
McClendon said he has not been contacted by officials from the dog racing venues or the Poarch Creek Indians about putting the terminals at those places.
McClendon believes the people want to vote on it. He said he has messages from voters through calls, emails and social media, wanting a vote.
Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, D-Birmingham, said she was for the lottery bill but believed her colleagues were playing a "game" to change the bill so if approved the public vote on it would be in a special election on a date other than this year's general election. Putting it off to another date would put voters "to sleep" so they wouldn't come out to vote on it, which she said was "voter suppression," she said.
"This is a disservice and a disgrace and I am ashamed of this body," Coleman-Madison said.
"If the legislature won't approve a lottery bill, Coleman-Madison said, then "it is time to vote on real tax reform in this state."
"Let's redo the taxes. Let everybody pay their fair share of taxes," Coleman-Madison said.
There should be a re-evaluation on property taxes, Coleman-Madison said. Some people are paying pennies an acre on land, she said.