After what seemed like a near death blow, a constitutional amendment proposing a lottery in Alabama passed the state's House of Representatives Thursday night, reported AL.com. There's still a ways to go until Alabama has a state lottery, but it was a big step for the idea proposed by Gov. Robert Bentley.
At first the House voted 61-37 for the bill, which was two short of the number needed because the bill is a proposed constitutional amendment. Normally that "would doom it," but "in an almost unheard of series of votes, supporters of the lottery Thursday managed to win a reconsideration motion," wrote the Montgomery Advertiser. The bill passed on the second try, 64-35, one vote over the 63 minimum.
The proposed constitutional amendment now goes before the Senate for concurrence or a conference committee, which means they either agree with changes made by the House or send it into a committee. The Senate previously passed the bill 21-12 last week.
The aim is to get the bill fully passed in time to get on the general election ballot scheduled for Nov. 8. It would then get decided by voters in Alabama. The lottery is aimed at funding struggling state programs.
"We came out with a victory from the House," Bentley said, speaking to reporters in the early hours of Friday, according to AL.com. "Not us, but a victory for the people of this state. This is about people. The lottery is just part of that process. The lottery is only a way that we can have money to fund the essential services of this state, particularly Medicaid."
If approved the bill would put 10 percent of lottery proceeds toward education and the other 90 percent into the state's general fund. The first $100 million in the general fund would go toward Alabama's Medicaid program, which says it currently has about $85 million less than it needs to keep up current services according to the state budget set to take effect Oct. 1, reported WBMA.
"The heart of the debate, though, was which was worse: Gambling, or the Medicaid shortfall," wrote the Advertiser. The majority apparently felt the budget issues were worse, but not everyone agreed.
Rep. Rich Wingo said he was "ashamed" according to the Advertiser. "This is the legacy this group leaves behind," he said. "We brought gambling to the state of Alabama."