Governor Bentley calling special session for lottery

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — State lawmakers may soon be faced with yet another lottery proposal, but this one would be coming from the governor.

Governor Robert Bentley announced on Wednesday that he would call a special session centered on a lottery referendum. The lottery would help fund agencies like the state’s strained Medicaid program.

Bentley’s position on a lottery appears to have evolved in recent years. He has been lukewarm to the idea in the past, but in light of tighter state budgets the physician/governor is now focusing on fresh solutions.

In a taped release, Bentley said that he would ask lawmakers to approve a lottery referendum.

“Montgomery doesn’t have all the answers,” Governor Bentley said. “Let’s hear from the people of this great state on whether the time has come to approve a statewide lottery, to help fund essential state services for our children, our elderly, those with mental illness and those who are in most need, as well as the men and women in law enforcement.”

Ultimately he’s tells taxpayers he wants them to have the opportunity to vote on a lottery and urged them to contact their elected legislators.

“I will present to the Legislature simple, clean and transparent legislation that creates a lottery with no other gambling included,” he continued.

State Senator Cam Ward said the Senate Republican caucus has been discussing the idea for a couple of days. Ward says there is momentum for a lottery, but he predicts friction from both supporters of expanded casino gaming and supporters of a lottery earmarked for education.

Ward said lawmakers will need to reach consensus quickly to avoid having a special election and wasting millions of taxpayer dollars. Failing to do so would further hurt the chances of passing a lottery referendum, according to Ward.

So what are the odds of it passing?

“I think they’re better than even. Now the problem is this, the real problem we have is time. We have to pass it before the end of August,” Ward said. “If we don’t pass it before the end of August you can’t vote on it on the November ballot. That means there will have to be a special election. I think pushing it off to a special election is going to be problematic, because I think a lot of voters are going to see that as what are you trying to hide? Why are you having a special election just for lottery? Why can’t we vote on it all at the same time?”

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