From the Arkansas Statehouse...

Objections notwithstanding, committees move lottery bill.

In Lottery on 17 March 2009 at 4:08 pm

Despite hearing concerns from key players about parts of the lottery bill — see it in its Senate version here — both the House Rules Committee and the Senate State Agencies Committee approved the long-in-the-works legislation today.

The primary objector, at least to some provisions, was Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, who ran the campaign to create the lottery last year. Among improvements he called for at the Senate State Agencies meeting were to:

-Ensure that every possible dollar goes to new scholarships. The bill as written now allows lottery money to be used for administrative and other costs.

-Set an appropriate salary level for the executive director of the lottery. Currently the director’s minimum salary would be $141,000. The government-appointed lottery commission could also approve a bonus of up to $354,000. A similar situation would apply for the lottery inspector general, who is scheduled to make the same as the executive director, and the lottery chief operating officer.

“I think the public is outraged by the prospect of someone earning $500,000 to run the lottery,” Lt. Gov. Halter said. He said Georgia pays its executive director $286,000, the second-highest figure in the nation.

-Tighten rules for a trust fund account that will hold lottery earnings and say explicitly how the interest will be spent. As it is now, the lottery commission will decide how to spend the interest.

-Improve ethics regulations. Expand a ban on future lobbying to legislators and not just members of the lottery commission. All legislators should be barred from receiving gifts from lottery vendors, not just those legislators who serve on the Lottery Commission Legislative Oversight Committee.

-Simplify the eligibility requirements for scholarships. The current legislation lists at least seven different ways a student can receive a scholarship.

-Rethink how some scholarship money is to be used. Under current plans, there will be an excess of money set aside for nontraditional students, Lt. Gov. Halter said. That money can be used to pay for higher scholarship awards for traditional students.

A statement Lt. Gov. Halter presented to the committee this afternoon can be read here. Read below for further objections.

Jerry Cox of the Family Council asked lawmakers to require that odds be written on tickets and that the term “multisovereign game” be defined. “The Commission’s success is defined by how much money it pulls out of the pockets of the people,” said Cox, who opposed the lottery last fall.

Rep. Randy Laverty had reservations that the Lottery Commission Legislative Oversight Committee, which is to consist of twelve legislators, skirts typical administrative procedures. Sen. Terry Smith, who is the bill’s lead sponsor, said the new committee was needed in order to react to problems with speed.

“We’re trying to make sure that we don’t run this thing like the government runs,” Sen. Smith said.

Sen. Kim Hendren tried to pass a motion that would have delayed consideration of the lottery bill until tomorrow. He said he wanted more time to process objections presented today. However, his motion failed 3-3. A subsequent motion approving the bill passed 5-2.

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