By Tyler Pruett
MONTGOMERY, Ala.— House Bill 13, which would give Alabamians the opportunity to vote on legalizing statewide lottery in November, has cleared its first major hurdle. The bill, sponsored by State Representative Alan Harper (R - Northport), cleared the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee. The bill will give the option to Alabamians to add a constitutional amendment allowing a lottery.
While this bill passed the first step in the house, an identical bill in the senate sponsored by Jim McClendon (R-Springville) failed to be brought to a vote by the committee. The Senate Committee for Tourism and Marketing chose not to vote on the bill, with members citing questions about where the bill allocates the proceeds of a state lottery.
The house bill is a much more simplified version of past measures. It provides very few directives on administration of a state lottery, how it would be regulated, or how proceeds would be allocated. Members on the senate committee took issue with this, but this may help pass in the house, where members can add amendments to address these issues.
As HB 13 proceeds to the house floor, opposition from activist and some politicians is already proving to be fierce. Public hearings were held today for each committee on the matter, which were largely attended by opposition. Several committee members also voiced their opposition, including Rep. Rich Wingo (R - Tuscaloosa), who opposed it on religious reasons, telling the house committee, “Christ is nowhere in the lottery.”
Most Alabamians remember the last time voters went to the polls to decide this issue. In 1999, then Governor Don Siegelman championed an amendment that was to be decided in election. The public rejected the measure by a comfortable margin of 54% to 46%, after large campaigns by activist groups.