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Debate explores

details of lottery bill

By AMY S. LANSDON

News Editor

Published Sept. 29, 1999

Two people who believe in Alabama and who want nothing but the best for the state and its children shared their insight on a state lottery with citizens of Pike County.

Tim Huddleston, governor’s adviser for aerospace affairs, is a supporter of the Alabama lottery and the Alabama HOPE Scholarship. Bill Harris, state field director for the Christian Coalition of Alabama, opposes the lottery.

"Everytime I speak to delegates to promote the state I am reminded that Alabama has the stigma of one of the worst education systems in the state," said Huddleston. "And time and time again when we want to raise taxes to improve education it fails."

Huddleston said he respects and understands why people are against the lottery, but thinks the lottery is the solution to the education problems that plague the state.

"We have the opportunity and we must seize it," he said.

Huddleston backed up his opinion of why the lottery can be successful for Alabama with staticstics from the Georgia lottery program. He said in Georgia there are more than 220,000 computers in schools in the state. Alabama spends about $1,916 in computer technology per school each year, while schools in Georgia benefit from more than $15,000 per school per year. Huddleston said technology is the best way to get students interested in learning.

Huddleston said Alabama residents spend money in other states on their lotteries.

"We do have a lottery in Alabama," he said. It’s the Georgia lottery. We do have a lottery in Alabama – it’s the Florida lottery."

Harris agreed with Huddleston, saying the state must do what is best for the students, but disagrees on what methods are best to achieve those improvements.

"I don’t want to see Alabama change from a provider to a protector to a bookie," Harris said.

Harris told the audience of about 72 people the kinds of things the Alabama lottery will provide for the education system, including a pre-kindergarten program, technology for the schools and tuition assistance for higher education. But what he said the lottery funding would not cover is money for K-12, new books and new buildings.

"If students are not educated in K-12 how will they be ready for college?" he asked.

Harris is also concerned the lottery will open the doors in Alabama for casino gambling. He said although the amendment states casino gambling will be prohibited in Alabama that it will only be a matter of time before casinos are here.

"An Oklahoma Indian tribe recently went to several counties in Georgia to puchase land to build casinos," he said. "Even though when the lottery bill was passed in Georgia there was to be no casino gambling, the tribe purchased property in Hancock County to build casinos.

"Make no mistake, this will bring casinos."