House Minority Leader Craig Ford (D-Gadsden) announced today (July 22) that he would pre-file a pair of lottery bills next week in anticipation of the governor calling a special legislative session. Rep. Ford said that he will also pre-file the bills for the 2017 Regular Legislative Session if a lottery is not passed during a special legislative session.
Ford is introducing two lottery proposals – one that only includes a lottery and a second that includes both a lottery and casino gambling. Both proposals would allocate 100 percent of the lottery revenue into the education budget for scholarships to two- and four-year public colleges and universities.
“Everywhere I go, people ask me, ‘When are we going to get a lottery? Why won’t the legislature let us vote?’” said Ford. “The bills I am introducing will give people an option: we can have a lottery, we can have a lottery with casinos, or we can reject them both. But let’s let put it all out there and let the people decide it once and for all.”
Unlike his previous lottery proposals, which provided up to four years of scholarships to students who had been on the A/B Honor Roll in high school, Ford’s new lottery proposal would open up scholarship eligibility to anyone who gets accepted to a public two- or four-year college or university, and would only provide funding for the first two years of higher education.
“The idea has always been to help people get a job, and that’s why I made these changes,” said Ford. “I don’t want to exclude good students who may have made a few Cs and Ds along the way, and I wanted to make it possible so that, for example, if you’ve got a guy who’s been working in a coal mine for the last 10 or 15 years and he gets laid off, now he can go back and get his associates degree in a new trade.”
The lottery has been gaining support among legislators over the past two years, but some Republican legislators have said the lottery should be used to prop up budget shortfalls in the general fund budget; a proposal that Ford said would not solve those budget problems and would not have the support of the people.
“The lottery won’t fix what’s wrong with Medicaid and the general fund budget. Even if we passed a lottery for Medicaid tomorrow, the money wouldn’t start coming in for another year, and Medicaid needs money right now if we are going to avoid the cuts and save the RCO program. “But the overwhelming majority of Alabamians that I have talked with said that they won’t support a lottery for the general fund. Anything other than an education lottery is dead on arrival.”