Lottery Bill Among Dozens Killed By First Legislative Deadline

A proposed state lottery is among dozens of bills that died under the first major deadline of the 2005 legislative session. House Gaming Chairman Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto, said he wants to give his committee time to study the pros and cons of a state-sponsored game of chance.

"I don't want to trot out a product that hasn't been thought through the whole way,'' Moak said.

Tuesday was the deadline for House and Senate committees to either pass or kill general bills filed in their own chamber. There is a later deadline for money bills.

The measures that survived Tuesday's deadline go to the full House and Senate for consideration by Feb. 10. The two chambers will then exchange bills for more debate.

There's a small chance the lottery could be revived later this session if a revenue bill is amended to put a tax on lottery tickets - but Moak said that's not likely to happen. The chairman said he wants to have public hearings later in the year to prepare a bill for the 2006 session.

Tennessee, Louisiana and Georgia are among the nearby states that bolster their revenues with lotteries. Georgia earmarks its lottery collections for college scholarships and pre-kindergarten programs.

Mississippi had a 1992 referendum that removed the state constitution's ban on a lottery, and the last serious discussion of the issue was during the 1993 legislative session.

Legislators are trying to tackle some of Mississippi's most serious budget problems in years, and the lottery had been mentioned as a possible source of new revenue.

Because of the time required to set up a lottery, "even if we had done it today, I don't think it would have helped our current budget situation,'' Moak said.

One of the issues that pops up year after year - allowing counties and small towns to use radar - is mostly dead for the session. But, there are a few bills written for specific communities that are still alive.

Those bills, which go through the Local and Private committees, were not under Tuesday's deadline.

Among the bills surviving Tuesday's deadline was Gov. Haley Barbour's education package, which cleared the Senate Education and Appropriations committees. The bill includes a plan to provide compensation to schools that improve their performance on achievement tests.

Senate Education Chairman Mike Chaney, R-Vicksburg, said that could cost between $17 to $20 million, but he said that's "only if the money's available.''

Sen. Ezell Lee, D-Picayune, said the bill didn't show how rewarding school performance could help retain and recruit teachers.

"We're doing something to make things sound good. You hoodwink,'' Lee said.

Jason Dean, Barbour's education adviser, said ideas for the bill were sought from teachers, administrators and others, including former North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt, whose state had a similar plan designed to recruit teachers.

Dean said the top 50 percent of schools that improve would be rewarded.

The bills are House Bill 432 and Senate Bill 2504.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)