Lottery debate not expected in legislature’s special session

Published 8:16 pm Monday, May 22, 2017

JACKSON (AP) — Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn says he does not expect legislators to debate the creation of a state lottery during a special session next month.

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant is calling lawmakers back to the Capitol starting June 5 to write budgets for the attorney general and the Department of Transportation for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Gunn spoke Monday at a forum sponsored by the Capitol press corps and Mississippi State University’s Stennis Institute of Government. In response to a question, Gunn said he does not expect Bryant to put a potentially time-consuming issue like a lottery on the session’s agenda.

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“I think something of that magnitude … is going to require an enormous amount of study and analysis,” said Gunn, a Republican from Clinton. “I don’t know that we have time to analyze that and digest it within the next three weeks.”

Only a governor can call a special session, and he tells lawmakers which topics they may consider. Bryant has not yet issued a document showing what will be on the agenda.

“The session will focus on issues of the budget and revenue,” the governor’s spokesman, Clay Chandler, said Monday. “The governor will decide what — if anything — will be included beyond the agency appropriations as we get closer to June 5.”

Mississippi is one of six states without a lottery, and several proposals to create one have died the past two decades, usually with little or no debate.

Bryant asked lawmakers this year to consider a lottery as a way to generate revenue because state tax collections have been lagging behind expectations. He said Mississippi is losing money because residents are driving to other states to buy lottery tickets, particularly when jackpots climb into multimillion dollar prizes.

Lottery proposals never gained traction during the three-month regular legislative session. Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves has questioned whether a lottery would generate new revenue or would just shift the way people spend money.

Gunn, who personally opposes a lottery, appointed a committee to study the issue, and members are scheduled to meet Thursday at the Capitol.