MONTGOMERY, Ala, (WHNT) - After going back and forth during a special session of the Alabama Legislature, Friday, lawmakers declared the lottery bill dead.
That means you won't have the chance to vote for or against a state lottery this November.
Governor Bentley's frustration was evident, during an interview with WHNT News 19. He told us lawmakers standing in the way of what he calls "Alabama Progress", should be ashamed of themselves.
Bentley says the debate over a state lottery isn't just about gambling. “As long as I’m Governor, we’re going to help people. This is a people issue. It’s really not a lottery issue," he says.
The Governor sees the lottery as the only option for the cash-strapped state to fully fund Medicaid and other initiatives, despite voting against a state lottery himself, 17 years ago. “I voted against it in '99 but I wasn’t Governor in '99 and I didn’t have to solve problems in '99 but we’re out of options," says Bentley.
He used pointed words when we asked him who is responsible for the bill's failure. “I don’t have to identify them but there are people in this state that really don’t want the state of Alabama to progress. They don’t want things to get better and they know who they are. I don’t really have to name them," he says.
Now that the bill is dead, at least for this special session, Governor Bentley pledges he'll still work on getting the referendum to the ballot box, and hasn't ruled out calling another special legislative session. “I’ve not made that decision yet. I want to say this. As a doctor and as a Governor I cannot standby and let children that have been born into poverty in this state, suffer so we’re going to do whatever’s necessary," says Bentley.
The Governor admitted voters won't likely see the lottery issue on a ballot this year, but that it's still a fight he's willing to gamble on. “Monday we will start working on that again. We’ll look at all of our alternatives, look at all of our options. I don’t know that it will but you know the people of Alabama want to vote on this. I mean it is a very positive issue right now," he says.
There is still hope for solving the state's 85 million dollar shortfall for Medicaid funding. The House passed a bill that would use BP Oil Settlement funds to cover that. The Senate is expected to vote on it, September 6th.