A fix is a fix

By JH Daniel

Seventeen years ago Alabama voters rejected a lottery proposal, and the topic is still one of the most talked about among its citizens, right up there with the state’s abysmal budget, the speaker of the house going to prison, the suspension of a supreme court justice and a governor who had an affair with his political adviser.

Governor Robert Bentley is an easy target, from paying his political-advising mistress with a slush fund to having his security firm fetch his wallet for him via helicopter. The governor’s reputation is, well, just wow. The release of a very unflattering, personal and damning audio exchange between Bentley and his paramour, recorded by his now ex-wife of fifty years, stung the worst. It spawned Bentley memes for weeks on end, most of which compared the old doctor to the Simpson’s character Montgomery Burns. A local brewery even named a beer after him. Now it looks as though Governor Bentley will do anything to get back on track. Even changing his mind about a lottery.

In a recent video announcement on his website, Bentley called for a special session on August 15, so that state lawmakers can focus on creating a lottery for Alabama. Since he has opposed a lottery for years and years, just like he has opposed the expansion of Medicaid, this sudden change of heart on fixing the state’s budget no matter what is odd. He is also warming up to the expansion of Medicaid now, too.

“An Alabama lottery is expected to generate two hundred and twenty-five million dollars annually,” Bentley said in the video. “After we have exhausted all other options, I believe this is our best chance to solve this (budget) problem.”

The full text of the video is here.

In budget hearings at the beginning of the 2016 legislative session, several large agencies told Alabama lawmakers that they needed more than $225 million to maintain priorities like education, Medicaid and the Department of Corrections (overcrowding is a big issue). There are big gaps in Alabama’s budget, and while a lottery may sound like a good solution, deflection ploy or not, it’s not the only viable one out there. Hell, Alabama can use all the solutions it can get right now, and if Bentley is that desperate, now would be the time for him to call on marijuana legislation. It’s doing more good than bad for Colorado, why not Alabama?

Alabama opened the door for legal pot in May when the use of cannabis oil for medical purposes became legal in the state, as well as enacting a policy to cultivate industrial hemp. With these two steps, the state is closer to marijuana legalization than they are to Medicaid expansion or a lottery. Why not follow these two small lights down the long tunnel of budget reform?