Bentley talks lottery, Uber returning to Tuscaloosa and Auburn

Aug 17, 2016

Alabama’s Legislature is once again scrambling to find additional funding in a special session.

Governor Robert Bentley reconvened the House and Senate in order to find new revenue for Medicaid, infrastructure, and state debt repayment. One of the most popular approaches seems to be constitutional amendment to establish a state lottery to direct revenue into Alabama’s General Fund budget. Several legislators are pushing their own versions of lottery bills, many of which include other forms of gambling as well.

Governor Bentley submitted what he calls a “clean” lottery bill to the Legislature. Last week in Tuscaloosa, he explained why he feels that approach is best.

“I know there are competing entities around the state who would like to add other forms of gaming, dog tracks and places like that. I understand that. But people are looking after their own interests on that. I’m trying to get something passed.”

If lawmakers manage to pass a lottery bill by August 24, Alabama voters will have the final say during the November 8 general election.

Alabama’s oil spill settlement was one of the main topics in the special session today in Montgomery.   A-P-R’s Stan Ingold reports, lawmakers are talking about using the funds to pay debts and build roads in south Alabama.

Alabama will get one billion dollars over the next 18 years in settlement funds.

Under the bill, the state would take a smaller amount up front which is projected to be six hundred forty million dollars through a bond issue. Around four hundred fifty million dollars would be used for debt repayment and one hundred ninety million dollars will be used for coastal counties' roads.

The chairman of the Ways and Means Committee says paying debt early could help avoid Medicaid cuts. He believes it would provide most of the additional eighty five million dollars needed to fund Medicaid.

The House approved a similar plan in April, but lawmakers feuded over how to use the money.

The ride-hailing service Uber plans to return to two Alabama cities this week as students return to college campuses.

City officials in Auburn and Tuscaloosa have approved ordinances in recent weeks that satisfy the company. Uber first began operating in both cities in 2014 but balked at city regulations and halted service soon after.

Auburn city officials say a new ordinance requires drivers to have auto insurance and background checks performed by Uber.

The Tuscaloosa city ordinance requires Uber and other ride-hailing companies to hold $1 million in liability insurance.

A company spokeswoman says it looks forward to returning to both cities.