State Politics

House, Senate both pass lottery bills. Now it’s time to negotiate the final changes.

A senator reads over a bill summary of the proposed Mississippi Lottery Law, as the legislation is presented before the body in Senate Chambers, Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018, at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss. Republican leaders have outlined a package to divert existing tax revenue, take on debt and create a lottery.
A senator reads over a bill summary of the proposed Mississippi Lottery Law, as the legislation is presented before the body in Senate Chambers, Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018, at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss. Republican leaders have outlined a package to divert existing tax revenue, take on debt and create a lottery. AP

The House passed its version of the lottery bill 70-43 with some of the opponents angry because little to no debate was allowed on the bill.

The bill differs significantly from one passed in the Senate on Thursday, though, so it goes back to the Senate which can either agree to the changes or invite negotiations. But that won’t happen until Monday because the House and Senate adjourned for the weekend.

The Legislature also could consider a bill to spend BP economic damages money then, if a final version of the lottery bill and a road and bridge bill are passed.

In the House on Friday, the animosity between Republicans and Democrats began in the Gaming Committee where Chairman Casey Eure, R-Biloxi, allowed no amendments.

It continued in the House where the bill was explained in under 10 minutes and no questions were allowed.

Rep. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, attempted to suspend the rules to allow unlimited questions, but his motion failed 56-55, well short of the two-thirds majority required. He voted for a lottery in the past but said he voted no on this bill because he had questions that weren’t answered.

“Three thousand two hundred and eighty, that’s the number of lines in this bill,” said Baria. “And we really had only seven minutes to talk about the bill.”

Another critic, Rep. Steve Holland, R-Tupelo, said he was voting for the lottery but “it’s now tainted and it’s nasty.”

The House bill would subject the corporation that would be set up to run the lottery to the Opening Meetings Act and public records law. They also struck a provision that expressly prohibited video lottery terminals at the behest of Rep. Kevin Horan, D-Grenada, who said the Legislature should close the door on using that technology in the future.

“I don’t think the corporation should have the power to limit free enterprise,” he said. “If you’re for free enterprise.”

The video games of chance have proliferated in Louisiana truck stops and in other states. However, Mississippi law prohibits any kind of gambling except in casinos in the three southern counties and along the Mississippi River and cruise vessels in the Mississippi.

The House also named the bill after longtime lottery advocate Rep. Alyce Clarke, D-Jackson. And it approved an amendment by Sonya Williams-Barnes that would use any lottery proceeds that remained after $80 million was used for highways and bridges for pre-K education.

Paul Hampton can be reached at 228-896-2330 or @jpaulhampton.
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