Three issues left in state session

Published 7:14 pm Monday, April 19, 2010

With two days left in the Legislative session, three key issues remain on the table — bingo, roads and college tuition.

Rep. Alan Boothe, D-Troy, said he isn’t sure what exactly will come before the Legislature before its last workday Thursday, nor is he quite sure how he’ll vote on what does.

“Wednesday we’ve got two special order calendars. One has the bill as it relates to people voting on bingo, and the other bill is a laundry list of Senate bills that have past, including PACT and roads, and I don’t know which calendar will be adopted,” Boothe said.

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Whichever of the issues isn’t brought before the government body Wednesday could still have a chance of passage in its final day Thursday.

The bill on bingo has been one of the most highly debated and discussed issues this session. It’s a bill that would allow voters to decide on a constitutional amendment to tax and regulate electronic bingo and end efforts underway now to close these facilities statewide.

If the bill does make it through the session, it won’t take affect unless approved first by the general public Nov. 2.

Boothe said if this issue is brought before the House this week, he isn’t sure exactly how he’ll vote.

“We’ve not debated that bill yet, and until we hear the debate and see what all is in the debate, I’m holding it pretty close to my chest,” Boothe said.

“I’m not going to try to get out there and have my mind made up and not listen to what the other side might say.”

House Speaker Seth Hammett, D-Andalusia, told the Associated Press he can’t predict how the House would vote on the bill.

“I’ve seen a list compiled by proponents that shows 67 votes for it. I’ve seen a list by opponents that shows 48 votes against it. That’s 115 votes, and there are only 104 members in the House,” Hammett told the AP.

The other two issues have already made their way through both the House and Senate, but in different forms. Now the bills will have to go to a conference committee to work out a compromise, and if there is none the bills will be rejected.

The roads bill would provide $100 million a year for 10 years from a state trust account for roads and bridges throughout the state.

The issue comes in a version of the bill passed by the House that loads it up with projects some representatives favor, Boothe.

“The author of the bill said he’s not in favor of accepting those because he wanted to keep a clean bill to protect infrastructure of the state and create jobs,” he said.

Still Boothe supported the bill that passed the House last week because he said it could be of use to the Pike County Road Department suffering financially.

The PACT (Prepaid Affordable College Tuition) bill would pump $236 million to save investors of the program.

The conflict comes in a House version of the bill that placed a cap on tuition increases for universities.

Troy University officials have spoken in opposition to that move, though the institution has willingly frozen tuition jumps for PACT students until 2012.