- The Alabama state legislature is in a special session this week called by Gov. Robert Bentley (R) to consider bills that would controversially allow a state lottery and require overturning the state constitution's ban on most games of chance.
- The aim is to generate cash for Alabama's General Fund, particularly its Medicaid program which covers more than 1 million people, of whom the majority are children, Bentley said at a Monday press conference.
- The matter arose after the program was budgeted earlier this year for $85 million less from the General Fund, the Montogomery Advertiser reported.
Alabama's reduced Medicaid funding has resulted in cuts to physician reimbursements, which in turn led to layoffs at doctors' offices and could potentially shrink program access across the state, the Advertiser reported.
The Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee listened to public comments Tuesday on five rival gambling and lottery bills and aimed to vote late Tuesday and start getting some of the bills out for a Senate vote Wednesday, the AP reported, while the outcomes remained anyone's guess. Alabama is one of only six states that do not have a lottery, the AP added, noting the others are Mississippi, Utah, Alaska, Hawaii, and Nevada.
There would still be limitations to the lottery as a funding source, the Advertiser reported, including that revenue from it wouldn't be available until at least 2018 and that with lottery revenue typically being flat year to year, it won't keep up with rising healthcare costs and the state's General Fund could expect to face another fiscal crisis a few years down the road.
The special session is also set to revisit a bill that would help fund Medicaid by distributing Alabama's share of settlement money from energy company BP over its 2010 Gulf oil spill.