Just days after a lottery bill was unable to pass in Alabama, a more simplified bill has now made profress. The first measure included the installation of video lottery terminals, an inclusion that many state lawmakers were leery of. The simplified measure was able to move through a House committee on Wednesday and may be on the chamber floor today.
The efforts of lawmakers to pass legislation for a state lottery have been back and forth this week. On Tuesday, opponents of the measure seemed to be forcing the vote off the ballot for this November after blocking the House committee from meeting to put the bill under consideration. The House was unable to vote until late in the day on Wednesday, passing the measure 21 to 12. However, opponents say the voted missed the cutoff to place the measure on the ballot.
Supporters of the measure are arguing that the state election law gives them until this Friday to put the measure on the ballot. The attorney general’s office has actually been pulled into the debate to try and decide if the measure was passed quickly enough to be placed on the November ballot. The argument comes from the language of the law that says the Secretary of State can accept amendments up to the 74th day before a general election. This would happen to be Friday. The section of code seems to be referring to a certification of candidates and not necessarily amendments.
According to Senator Jim McClendon, a sponsor of the legislation, if the measure can get through the House and Senate by this Friday, the 74th day, then the bill will be sent to the Secretary of State to be placed on the ballot.
This date is essentially critical for the fate of the lottery as well as the General Fund. The bill has the best chance of passing by being considered during a general election which will see more voters at the polls. However, many Alabamians are not happy that the money from the lottery would go towards the General Fund rather than education, as is custom in other states.
John H. Merrill disagrees with the interpretation of the law as seen by McClendon and stated that the last day to see the bill added to the ballot was Wednesday, the 24th of August. The Secretary of State has asked Luther Strange, the Alabama Attorney General, to give his opinion on the interpretation of the language to determine when exactly the last day is for the bill to be added to the ballot. Merrill stated that the opinion of the AG will see the change in date take place if directed.
Governor Robert Bentley called the issue a ‘smokescreen’ and stated that the date is not important. Bentley said it is the vote that is important.