In 1999, then-Governor Don Siegelman, lobbied Alabamians as hard as he could to approve a so called “education lottery” for the state of Alabama. The Alabama Democratic Party pushed so hard for it that they are still a half million dollars in debt from their lottery campaign almost 15 years later.
In spite of their efforts, Alabamians soundly rejected the lottery, with 54 percent voting against it in a statewide vote that saw 50 percent of registered voters go to the polls.
During the 2010 gubernatorial campaign, Democratic nominee Ron Sparks made advocating for the lottery the center piece of his campaign. Republican Robert Bentley defeated him with 58 percent of the vote.
In both 1999 and 2010, faith-based organizations pushed back hard against the lottery by saying it exploits the poor, who disproportionately participate in hopes of attaining sudden wealth.
But Alabama House Minority Leader Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, is leading a renewed push by Democrats to make the lottery an issue once again.
“I will reintroduce legislation this year that will allow the voters to decide if we will create a state lottery,” Ford wrote Monday. “Under my bill, the revenue brought in from the lottery will only be used for education, with $50 million being used to put a school resource officer (i.e., security guard) in every public school while the rest of the revenue will be used to provide scholarships to students who make the A/B Honor Roll. These scholarships can help our children afford an education at any university, two-year college or technical school of their choice.”
Lottery advocates say it could keep money in the state that is currently being spent in surrounding states by Alabamians who drive across the state line to play.
“Alabamians are already spending millions of dollars on a statewide lottery,” Ford said. “We are just doing it in other states. Tennessee, Georgia and Florida all have their own lottery and are more than happy to take our money and spend it on their children’s education.”
Republicans responded to Ford’s lottery push by saying Democrats should focus more on growing the economy instead of trotting out the same failed ideas of the past.
“We are working to put more money into the pockets of hardworking Alabamians, while Democrats want to take it out,” House Speaker Mike Hubbard said.
Ford’s lottery bill would likely be assigned to the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee, where it would have little chance of advancing to the full House for a vote.
“Just four years ago, the Democratic nominee for governor made the creation of a statewide lottery his one and only issue, and he was soundly defeated in that race,” House Majority Leader Micky Hammon said. Hammon is Vice Chairman of the Economic Development and Tourism Committee.
In the highly unlikely scenario that Republicans do allow a lottery bill to pass, it would still have to be approved by the voters in a statewide referendum that would probably take place in Nov. of 2014.
When asked if Gov. Bentley had any plans to push for a statewide vote on the lottery, the governor’s Communications Director Jennifer Ardis simply replied, “No.”
What do you think? Have Alabamians already made their position on the lottery clear, or do you want to see another statewide vote?
This article has been updated to include a comment from Governor Bentley’s communications director
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