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Mississippi lottery bill advances, but more work remains

Representatives during a recess in the special session Thursday (Craig Ford)

Mississippi could be inching closer to creating a lottery and leaving the list of six states that don't offer the game of chance.

Posted: Aug 25, 2018 12:01 AM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi could be inching closer to creating a lottery and leaving the list of six states that don't offer the game of chance.

The Mississippi House voted 71-43 Friday to pass a lottery bill . That happened a day after the state Senate voted 30-20 for its own version of the same bill.

However, work remains.

The House made several changes to the bill, including requiring that a lottery corporation abide by longstanding Open Meetings and Public Records laws. When the bill passed the Senate Thursday, it said a lottery corporation would be exempt from the government sunshine laws. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant said he wanted the openness.

"Of course it needs to be open records and open meetings," Bryant told reporters Friday outside the Senate chamber.

The House and Senate must agree on the identical bill before it could go to the governor, who is pushing lawmakers to create a lottery to generate money for highways and bridges. The Senate could either accept the House changes, or the two chambers could negotiate a final version.

The National Conference of State Legislatures says the states currently without a lottery are Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada and Utah.

Several House Democrats complained Friday that there was too little debate on the substance of the lottery bill in the Republican-controlled chamber. Among them was Rep. Steve Holland of Plantersville, who said he wanted a deeper debate but he believes a majority of people in Mississippi favor a lottery.

"It's tainted and nasty. I'm still going to vote yes," Holland said of the bill.

Democratic Rep. Alyce Clarke of Jackson has pushed for more than a decade to create a lottery.

"I know we're doing the right thing," Clarke said.

In the special session that started Thursday, Bryant is asking legislators to put hundreds of millions more dollars into state and local roads and bridges. One bill being considered would send cities and counties a portion of money that the state collects from sales tax on catalog and online sales. Proceeds from a lottery would also initially go into transportation.

The Senate on Friday voted 48-3 to pass a bill to share taxes on internet sales with cities and counties. The vote came after a Senate committee made some minor changes to House Bill 1 , meant to help improve road and bridge conditions after Gov. Phil Bryant was forced to close a number of county bridges. The measure returns to the House for representatives to agree to changes or seek negotiations with the Senate.

Legislative leaders say the bill will provide $110 million annually to cities and counties in 2022 when fully phased in. Counties could spend the money only on roads and bridges, while cities could also spend money on water and sewer work.

The measure also would authorize the state to borrow up to $300 million mostly to be spent through an emergency bridge repair fund, earmarks proceeds from sports betting to state highways for 10 years, and imposes additional yearly taxes of $75 on hybrid vehicles and $150 on electric vehicles.

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