No lottery for Alabama after ‘thoroughly confusing’ process

BIRMINGHAM (Maggie Walsh) — “The lottery bill for the 2016 special session is dead,” announced the measure’s sponsor, Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, on Aug. 26 after the Senate voted against agreeing with the House changes to the bill (SB3).

The House changes included defining the lottery as paper tickets, an attempt to prohibit electronic lottery terminals, and earmarking 1 percent of lottery proceeds to rural fire departments.

It was the narrowed definition of the lottery that drove the 7–23 vote that signaled the demise of the bill, several legislators said.

Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, said after the two votes, “I’ve been here a while, but you are thoroughly confusing me now.”

And the rest of Alabama was right there with him.

The lottery bill’s ride through the special session was riddled with unexpected twists and turns, including confusion over when the deadline was to get the bill on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The recurring chant in the State House on Aug. 26 from legislators was “I’ve never seen anything like this,” referring to the wild ride of SB3.

For the full story, go to www.thealabamabaptist.org.
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Lottery bill passes in House; back to Senate today

BIRMINGHAM (TAB) — Gov. Robert Bentley’s lottery bill, SB 3, fell two votes short of passing in the House last night, but in a surprising turn of events that includes a reconsideration motion and a re-vote, the bill was passed just before midnight.

The first vote fell 61–37 against the lottery and the second pushed it through, 64–35. Three representatives — Darrio Melton, D-Selma; Kelvin Lawrence, D-Hayneville; and David Sessions, R-Grand Bay — made the difference, voting “yes” on the second vote.

After the votes, Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, said, “I’ve been here a while, but you are thoroughly confusing me now.”

SB 3 now heads back to the Senate at 10 a.m. for concurrence or a conference committee since the bill was amended in the House.

Bentley and Sen. Del Marsh are still saying the lottery vote could be on the Nov. 8 ballot, but confusion continues to swirl around that claim.

To contact your Senator, visit capwiz.com. 

The Alabama Baptist will continue to update the story as information becomes available.
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Lottery bill still in motion; will not be on Nov. 8 ballot

BIRMINGHAM (TAB) — Gov. Robert Bentley’s lottery bill, SB 3, is still moving through the House of Representatives, although it has missed the Aug. 24 deadline to make it onto the Nov. 8 ballot.

SB 3 was passed through the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee this afternoon, so it’s on to the House floor tomorrow for debate and a possible vote.

This afternoon Sen. Jim McClendon, the bill’s sponsor, and Sen. Del Marsh both claimed they had until Friday to get the measure on the Nov. 8 ballot, but Secretary of State John H. Merrill said he was confident the deadline was today. Merrill said unless a change is made to the state law that sets the deadline for getting amendments on the ballot, it will not be voted on in November.

Merrill reached out to Attorney General Luther Strange this evening for his opinion of the law “to make sure no stone is left unturned.” Strange had not responded as of press time.

The bill has language that would allow the lottery to go on the November 2018 ballot if needed or legislators could call a special election — a move that would garner less voters and cost at least $3 million, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.

The bill is an attempt to fund the state’s $85 million Medicaid shortfall by creating a statewide and Powerball lottery, a move that Bentley claims would generate $225 million in revenue.

To contact your representative, go to capwiz.com.
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Henagar votes to go wet

BIRMINGHAM (TAB) — In DeKalb County residents voted “wet” Aug. 23 to allow alcohol sales within the city limits of Henagar, a community that has banned alcohol sales since its founding in 1855.bottle of beer

With a population of more than 2,300, the sale of packaged beer and wine by private vendors had previously been prohibited in Henagar.

Waaytv.com reported at 7:37 p.m. that the votes on the referendum during municipal elections lined up in support of alcohol sales, despite efforts by David Hairston, pastor of Henagar Baptist Church, who helped organize a “Vote NO to alcohol sales” yard sign campaign Aug. 11.

The final vote tally was 388 (57 percent) “yes” and 290 (42 percent) “no.”
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The Alabama Baptist will continue to cover this wet/dry referendum vote. Look for further coverage in an upcoming issue.

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Lottery vote will not be on Nov. 8 ballot

BIRMINGHAM (TAB) — Alabama House members blocked the committee meeting on Gov. Robert Bentley’s lottery proposal this afternoon, ensuring that it will not be on the Nov. 8 ballot for Alabamians to vote on.

Bentley’s lottery bill, SB 3, had to be reviewed in a House committee today in order for the House to be able to pass it by the Wednesday deadline for the November ballot.

Rep. Ken Johnson, R-Moulton, slowed the pace for the lottery bill in what some called “an unusual move” because of a procedural rule that was not met — the meeting time wasn’t advertised 24 hours in advance, reported the Decatur Daily.

For the committee meeting to take place, four-fifths of the votes were needed. The House voted 59–33, four votes short.

The lottery bill isn’t dead, however. SB 3 could be voted on in a special election if House members agree on it. If the bill passes later in this special session, it will require a special election.

The bill is an attempt to fund the state’s $85 million Medicaid shortfall by creating a statewide and Powerball lottery, a move that Bentley claims would generate $225 million in revenue.

For more information on how a lottery is unlikely to garner $225 million, click here.

For ongoing lottery coverage, visit thealabamabaptist.org.

To contact your representative, visit capwiz.com.
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WMU Foundation helps Louisiana church assist flood survivors with immediate needs

Flooding in Louisiana by Ryann Mitchell

Photo by Ryann Mitchell

BIRMINGHAM (WMU Foundation, TAB) — National Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) and the WMU Foundation awarded a $6,000 grant from the HEART (Humanitarian Emergency Aid for Rebuilding Tomorrow) Fund to First Baptist Church, Lafayette, Louisiana, for disaster relief (DR) related to the recent flooding.

“We’re helping about 40 families who are affected,” said Andrea McKenzie, minister of missions and college students at First, Lafayette. “Their homes were not in a flood zone and they do not have flood insurance. Their neighborhoods had never flooded before but now they have several inches of water in their homes.”

Church members and volunteers will use the HEART Fund grant to purchase items needed immediately such as diapers and wipes, baby formula and food. The grant also will be used to purchase gift cards that families can use to buy necessities and for cleanup and rebuilding efforts.

“When we learn of disasters we sometimes feel all we can do is pray,” explained Judith Edwards, WMU Foundation board member. “By giving to the HEART Fund, even those of us who cannot physically help can still reach out to the hurting in Christ’s name.”

The WMU Foundation is considering additional HEART Fund grants as relief and rebuilding efforts continue.

“There are immediate needs like food and shelter now, but there will be many additional needs in the days and weeks ahead,” said David George, WMU Foundation president. “We will continue to help as people face the challenges of rebuilding and putting their lives back together.”

The WMU Foundation is accepting donations to the HEART Fund for disaster relief victims online at wmufoundation.com or by mail to WMU Foundation HEART Fund, 100 Missionary Ridge, Birmingham, AL 35242.

Alabama Baptists also have boots on the ground through their trained DR volunteers and will be involved with cleanup efforts for the long run. To assist with Alabama Baptist DR efforts, visit www.sbdr.org.
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What Alabamians have to say about a lottery

BIRMINGHAM (TAB) — Alabamians have less than 24 hours to decide where they really stand on the issue of the lottery so they can contact their representative and have a heart-to-heart conversation. To contact your representative before the Tuesday afternoon session of the House of Representatives, go to capwiz.com.

Robertson

Katherine Green Robertson

“To put it simply, the spenders have a want, but they’ve done a good job convincing the people that it’s a need. … Make no mistake, the lottery is a tax — a hidden tax, disguised as entertainment, and supplied through a state-run monopoly — and it will almost assuredly lead to more taxes as politicians are further enabled to avoid the kinds of tough decisions that they were elected to make.”
Katherine Green Robertson, vice president of  Alabama Policy Institute (API)

“When selling the public on the ideal of a lottery, proponents always provide a high estimate of the amount of money that will be raised for the state treasury. Governor Bentley says that he expects a lottery to bring in $250 to $300 million. But, that is nothing but pie in the sky. … Governor Bentley says they have cut all that they can cut, but having served in the Alabama Senate for 8 years and also served 5 years as the Chief Economic Advisor to the Governor in the 1990’s, I can tell you there is much more that can be cut without seriously jeopardizing the welfare of our citizens.”
— Bill Armistead, immediate past chairman of the Alabama Republican Party and former senator, in an op-ed for al.com

Kennedy

Terrell Kennedy

“It’s unbelievable to me that many of our politicians, many of them who … grew up just like I did and now they have the power to make great decisions for our people and this is what they’re offering?”
— Terrell Kennedy, former financial insurance advisor and founder and director of Fit for Life, an after-school tutoring program for adolescent men in Birmingham

“The politicians will always find out a way to spend whatever money they have and put it to whatever purposes they want it to. Gambling hurts more people than it does benefitting the few who win.”
— Jim Lowe, pastor of Guiding Light Church and executive committee member of Gatekeepers Association of Alabama

Attorney General Luther Strange RGB

Luther Strange

“I am personally opposed to any lottery to fund state government. I believe the lottery is, at best, a Band-Aid on the state’s budgetary problems and will not provide the kind of long-term solution we need.”
— Luther Strange, attorney general of Alabama

“My question is, why the push for gambling in Alabama? The House of Representatives passed a bill that will fund Medicaid and pay off most of Alabama’s debt, while providing a fair amount of money for infrastructure needs in the two counties most impacted by the BP Oil Spill (Baldwin and Mobile counties). Gambling will have a long-term negative impact on Alabama’s already fragile economy.”
— Joe Godfrey, executive director of Alabama Citizen’s Action Program

Burgess

Rick Burgess

“It doesn’t matter if the money comes from tax revenue, it doesn’t matter if the money comes from a lottery, if they mismanage the money they’ve got now they’re just going to mismanage that as well.”
— Rick Burgess, bestselling author and cohost of “Rick & Bubba Show”

“Alabama — the funds are there. Legislators, servants of the people, please act upon the political will and courage you say you have, we believe you have and we’re praying you have. Steward the hard-earned tax dollars you already have. Don’t believe the lie that a lottery is the only way.”
— Jody Trautwein, president and founder of Joshua Generation and executive committee member of Gatekeepers Association of Alabama

“Passing a lottery during this special session will not have any impact on the current $85 million Medicaid shortfall in next year’s budget. The administration will still have to find ways to cut Medicaid expenses or find money for next year’s shortfall in time for the Oct. 1 start of the fiscal year.”
— Jim Zeigler, state auditor for Alabama

For more lottery coverage, scroll down on our home page or type “lottery” in the search bar.
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Whose math makes sense?

BIRMINGHAM (Maggie Walsh) — Now that Gov. Robert Bentley’s lottery bill has been passed through the Senate, the House of Representatives has until Wednesday to approve the measure in order to get the bill on the ballot for Nov. 8.

And Alabamians have about 24 hours to decide where they really stand on this issue so they can contact their representative and have a heart-to-heart conversation.

The bill — SB 3, sponsored by Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville — is an attempt to fund the state’s $85 million Medicaid shortfall by creating a statewide and Powerball lottery, a move that Bentley claims would generate $225 million in revenue.

SB 3 made it out of the Senate with three significant amendments:

  • Ten percent of lottery proceeds will go to the Education Trust Fund, as proposed by Sen. Greg Reed, R-Jasper.
  • The first $100 million of lottery proceeds will go toward Medicaid once expenses are paid, as proposed by Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham.
  • Lottery revenue cannot be used in advertising for the lottery, as proposed by Sen. Paul Sanford, R-Huntsville.

But let’s talk about that $225 million figure for a moment.

Doing the math

Although Bentley said last year that gambling was not the answer to Alabama’s fiscal problems, in announcing the August special session he said that a state lottery is “the only real choice” for funding Medicaid and that it could “provide funding that we can count on year after year.”

When asked how the $225 million figure was calculated, Yasamie August, Bentley’s press secretary, simply said it was an estimate based on the historical experience of lotteries in other states similar in size to Alabama — specifically Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky and South Carolina.

But of those four states, Louisiana most closely matches up with Alabama in terms of size and financial statistics. According to the 2010 census by the United States Census Bureau, Alabama’s population was 4,779,736 and Louisiana’s was 4,533,372. And the two states’ per capita income is comparable, with Alabama’s at $35,625 and Louisiana’s at $39,413, according to infoplease.com.

In 2015 the Louisiana lottery generated $184.8 million, according to “The Blinken Report: State Revenues From Gambling” published in April by The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government. Louisiana lottery revenue in 2015 was the highest it’s been since 2008, the last year of revenue included in “The Blinken Report,” and it was a year of unusual growth in lottery revenue for the state.

So even at its peak lottery income in eight years, Louisiana is more than $40 million shy of what Bentley is promising.

In fact, 27 of the 44 states that have a lottery saw declines from 2014 to 2015, “The Blinken Report” read.

‘Untruthful’ calculation

Although gambling has become a popular way for states to raise revenue, the report says, “the results are short-run yields and longer-run deterioration.”

In an op-ed for the Birmingham Business Journal, Andrew A. Yerby, senior policy counsel for the Alabama Policy Institute, concluded that the $225 million figure was calculated by averaging the per capita lottery revenue of those four states and multiplying that average by the population of Alabama.

In the words of Yerby, “The calculation is unsophisticated, unreliable and untruthful as employed by Gov. Bentley.

“His claim that a lottery would be a ‘permanent solution’ to the state’s budget problems by bringing in ‘at least’ $225 million is conclusively false. No reasonable person could have honestly made those declarations based on a mere one year of data from a mere four states.”

Bentley says a lottery is “Alabama’s best option.” At the end of the day, after all the numbers are crunched, the question is: Do you agree?

To contact your representative before the Tuesday afternoon session, go to capwiz.com.
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Alabama Baptists helping with Louisiana flood disaster, in for the ‘long haul’

Photo by Alan Cross

Photo by Alan Cross

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (TAB) — Trained Disaster Relief (DR) volunteers are in place in the flood-ravaged Louisiana areas and have a long road ahead of them. The flood survivors are feeling the pain of the disaster and some are saying more help is needed. And Alabama Baptist DR officials said they are committed to help for the “long haul.”

With Alabama’s neighbor-state receiving record-shattering rainfall of between 4 and 26 inches in different areas over a four-day period, more than 15 parishes have been affected and at least 13 people reported dead.

On Aug. 19, Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief (DR) was assigned incident management responsibilities and teams were stationed at Istrouma Baptist Church, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Clean up and recovery teams from Columbia, Baldwin and Tuskegee-Lee Baptist associations were deployed and will work at the Baton Rouge location. Two laundry units (from Mobile Baptist Association) were in place at press time at First Baptist Church, Zachary, Louisiana, and in Denham Springs, Louisiana. Three shower units also were in place at press time, one in Baton Rouge and two in Denham Springs.

Photo by Alan Cross

Photo by Alan Cross

But while Alabama and other states are helping a lot, flood survivors are still in need, according to Alan Cross, former pastor of Gateway Baptist Church, Montgomery, who now serves as president and executive director of Community Development Initiatives. Cross traveled to Louisiana to help in the relief efforts.

“It is terrible down here,” Cross reported from Ascension Parish on Aug. 21. “Still flooding in places. People still can’t get in or out of some areas. Some small communities are basically cut off. And of course where everyone can work, their belongings are piled high along the road.”
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To read the full story, visit www.thealabamabaptist.org.

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Alabama schools can keep current restroom policy; federal court judge rules in favor of Strange’s motion

BIRMINGHAM (TAB) — Alabama schools can keep their current gender-based restroom policies, at least for now.

Attorney General Luther Strange

Attorney General Luther Strange

According to a Aug. 22 press release from Attorney General Luther Strange’s office, a federal court judge granted the motion for a preliminary injunction by Alabama and other states staying the May 13 Obama administration’s order (that would require schools to allow student access to restrooms and locker rooms of their gender “identity” rather than birth sex).

“The court decision is a victory for parents and children all across Alabama,” Strange said in the release. “I joined the multi-state lawsuit against the Obama administration … to prevent Alabama schools from being forced to surrender their restroom access policies to social experiments in Washington.

“I am pleased the federal court has agreed to our request to stay the controversial order while our lawsuit challenging the legality of the transgender order continues.”

Plaintiffs in the case also include Texas, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah, Georgia, Mississippi (by and through Gov. Phil Bryant, Harrold Independent School District of Texas, Arizona Department of Education, Heber-Overgaard Unified School District of Arizona, Paul LePage (Governor of the State of Maine) and Kentucky (by and through Gov. Matthew G. Bevin).
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The Alabama Baptist will continue to cover this case. For previous articles on the transgender order, visit http://www.thealabamabaptist.org and search “transgender bathroom” or “transgender restroom.”

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