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Teacher lobbyist expects to see gaming legislation

By M.J. Ellington (334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — Teacher lobbyist Paul Hubbert said he will not be surprised to see some type of "gaming" legislation introduced before the Legislature completes the regular session in June.

Money for agencies that depend on the General Fund is a challenge. Hubbert said the first legislative session after a new Legislature is elected usually brings talk of gambling bills as a solution to chronic funding shortages.

This year is no different, Hubbert said, with talk in the halls of the State House about gambling bills but nothing definitive yet about such legislation.

Hubbert, executive secretary of the Alabama Education Association, said if the Legislature wants the tax incentives in Gov. Bob Riley's proposed package, then there are ways to pay for them besides tapping the Education Trust Fund. Hubbert opposes bills that he says jeopardize the fund.

A lottery to fund Medicaid is one possible answer to the growing need for services for the state's poorest citizens, Hubbert said. Tax reform, particularly franchise tax changes, might help as well, he said.

Alabama's Medicaid Agency and Department of Corrections are among agencies that have high demand and steep increases in costs.

Rep. Ronald Grantland, D-Hartselle, serves on the House General Fund budget committee. Grantland said he knows of only one gaming bill. A proposed constitutional amendment for Birmingham Greyhound Racecourse would enable the Jefferson County dog track to have electronic bingo, Grantland said.

"Since it failed before, I doubt that a lottery bill would come up," Grantland said, referring to voters' rejection of a state lottery in 1999.

Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, said he has heard rumors of gaming legislation to help the General Fund, but he doesn't know particulars.

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