By State Rep. Craig Ford
The lottery has been talked about for decades in Alabama. There’s no question that the voters support it, but the state legislature has failed to pass a bill that would let the people vote.
Two years ago, the lottery almost made it through the legislative process before it died in the State Senate. But the lottery is now getting new attention after the Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives told the press that a lottery would be on the legislature’s agenda next year.
There’s no question that the lottery could do a lot of good for our state. The most recent estimates are that a lottery could bring in $332 million dollars a year, and that kind of money could solve a lot of problems.
One of those problems is our state’s infrastructure. Our roads and bridges are in terrible shape, and far too much of rural Alabama is still without quality Internet access or even decent cell phone reception.
Imagine how much progress we could make on projects like I-759, U.S. High-way 411, the Southside Bridge and Ala. Highway 77 in Attalla if we had a lottery.
A lottery could also pay for scholarships to two-year and four-year universities to help kids – even those who already are in the workforce but want to go back to school – earn their college degree.
In addition to scholarships, a lottery could provide funding for technology, improved security, and giving educators and education retirees the pay raise they deserve.
Legislators will have to work out the details of any lottery proposal, and the funds need to be earmarked so that the voters can be confident that the lottery won’t become a slush fund for politicians and pork spending projects.
But in order to get that acceptable lottery bill through the state legislature and in front of the voters, we have to have lawmakers who will support it.
In 2016, the lottery barely made it through the State House of Representatives and ultimately died in the State Senate because lawmakers couldn’t agree on the details.
Passing a lottery bill is hard enough as it is because there are a handful of anti-lottery lawmakers who use every tool at their disposal to kill the lottery, even though public opinion – even in their own districts – supports the lottery.
That is why it is so important that we elect lawmakers who support the lottery and are committed to working together to put an acceptable lottery proposal in front of the voters.
The good news is that the lottery is not a partisan issue; it is just as popular among Republicans as it is among Democrats. And more and more legislators are now starting to voice their support for at least letting the people vote on the lottery. But even with the growing support for the lottery, there are still several legislators and political candidates who remain against it.
In 2016, the lottery passed the State House of Representatives by only two votes. And while there are 105 members of the State House, there are only 35 state senators, making a senator’s vote three times as powerful as a House member’s vote.
When you go to vote this November, make sure you know where the candidates stand on the lottery. The lottery will be back in the state legislature next year, but whether or not you ever get to vote on it could be decided by who you vote for in November.
Craig Ford represents Gadsden and Etowah County in the Alabama House of Representatives. He currently is running for the State Senate in District 10 as an Independent.