The Alabama Legislature continues to find a way to complicate the simple idea of a lottery.
For this year’s first offering of a lottery bill, which originated in the Senate, there was proposed paper lottery. That bill ignored electronic gaming devices, casinos and dog track racing. The money generated from the lottery would be split between the Education Trust Fund and the always ailing General Fund.
For many Alabamians, the proposal seemed reasonable.
Lawmakers have a mission that is not difficult: come up with a bill that defines a lottery, put it on a ballot and let voters determine its fate.
Instead, some special interests, including casino and dog track owners, want a piece of the action.
Also, some lawmakers are arguing about how to use the lottery money. Should it all go to education, pay off debt or bolster the General Fund?
The version that passed the Senate would have first applied revenues to pay back the Alabama Trust Fund for transfers made to support the state budget from 2013-2015.
After that, Sen. Greg Albritton’s bill would have split lottery revenues between the General Fund, a new reserve fund and the Alabama Trust Fund. Albritton is chairman of the General Fund committee in the Senate.
What’s clear is a lottery shouldn’t be difficult to propose and manage. The General Fund and Education Trust Fund should both probably benefit from a lottery unless a better idea surfaces.
The General Fund carries law enforcement, courts, prisons, Medicaid and many other vital services. Some of the pressing issues, like overcrowded, dangerous prisons, cannot be addressed without more funding.
For a variety of reasons, most Alabamians want to vote on a lottery. States around Alabama are raking in millions, while state lawmakers continue to avoid passing legislation.
Next week, lawmakers are scheduled to have an opportunity to finalize a lottery bill and let voters decide its fate. If approved, the stream of tax dollars flowing to other states will stay at home.