Alabama senator makes one last push for lottery vote before end of legislative session

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — As the 2016 Alabama legislative session rushes to the finish line, one legislator is pushing for a lottery vote one last time.

The Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee on Thursday voted 4-2 for a constitutional amendment that would allow Alabamians to vote on a state lottery.

Senator Jim McClendon (R-Springville) introduced a lottery bill at the beginning of the legislative session, and said at the time it would raise $300 million in additional revenue for the state on an annual basis. However, McClendon’s bill does not stipulate what the funds would be used for. The bill passed this week by the Tourism and Marketing Committee came with the understanding that McClendon would rework his bill to include more details on where the money would go before it comes up for a final vote in the Senate.

“I am sponsoring this because of constituent requests,” McClendon told ABC 33/40’s Lauren Walsh. “Throughout my district, people have said why don’t we have a lottery in Alabama? We’re driving to Georgia and Tennessee. We’re driving out of state and spending our money and we’d like to spend our money right here at home.”

McClendon hopes to figure out the details of his bill, like where lottery funds would be allocated, within the next few days. He says there’s “time enough” to get the bill passed before the end of session.

A gambling expansion of any kind will face fierce opposition from Alabama’s large swath of evangelical voters.

Dr. Joe Godfrey, executive director of the Alabama Citizens Action Program (ALCAP), an almost 80-year-old organization that describes itself as “Alabama’s moral compass,” last month expressed concerns that “illegal gambling is taking over this state” and reiterated his group’s opposition to an expansion of any kind.

But there are signs that some longtime gambling opponents are considering softening their stance.

“Historically, I’ve opposed them,” powerful state senator Jabo Waggoner (R- Vestavia Hills) told ABC 33/40. But he says he is now considering throwing his support behind a bill that would bring the issue up for a vote again.

In 1999, Alabamians voted down Gov. Don Siegelman’s proposed “education lottery” 54% to 46%. Since then, numerous statewide candidates — most of them Democrats — have run on a platform of letting the people vote again.

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Senator Cam WardSenator Cam Ward    Senator Slade Blackwell    Senator J. T. "JABO" WaggonerSenator J. T. "JABO" Waggoner

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Director's Update

Fall 2017- In the District

By Mimi Penhale, Legislative Director

Since the 2017 Legislative Session ended back in May, our Delegation has been out and about supporting community events and schools. Shelby County cities and organizations have been busy over the past few months with farmers markets, festivals, and events to raise money for Shelby county groups. Some of the events that our Delegation members have attended and are planning to attend include: the annual CASA Roast, tours of local farms with Alabama’s Farmers’ Federation, visiting the Alabama Wildlife Center at Oak Mountain State Park, Montevallo’s Bicentennial Celebration, and the Ground Breaking of the Helena Earth Kind Rose Trials. The Delegation members are also participating in many events around the county on their own, so keep an eye out for them in your area or at your local schools.  

The fall is always a great time for the Legislators to visit schools in their district. Legislators in Alabama are given access to grant money to provide community service projects in their districts. Grants are requested by local schools, libraries, and organizations that work with our public schools. The amount of money that Legislators can access each year is limited and varies depending on revenue brought in by the state.

The grants given by our Delegation members this fall have covered a variety of needs. Some of the grants impacted students and teachers in the classroom, like technology updates and funding for educational programming. Grants outside the classroom will help cover structural updates for school facilities. Some of the organizations awarded grant money for this fall provided students access to programs and community service opportunities that they might not otherwise be able to participate in. The final grants awarded each year are a joint contribution from the Delegation to the overall winners of the Shelby County Schools’ Teacher of the Year recipients. Three teachers, who are named the overall age group winners by the Shelby County Education Foundation, are awarded grant money that can be used by the winners for classroom supplies, technology, or programs.

Providing grants for projects like these and supporting events in the district is a highlight for our Delegation each year. These are a few small ways that we can give back to the communities we serve and love. 

Shelby County Legislative Delegation (C) 2013