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Mississippi lottery bill advances, but more work remains

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi could be inching closer to creating a lottery and leaving the list of six states that don’t offer the game of chance.
The Mississippi House voted 71-43 Friday to pass a lottery bill . That happened a day after the state Senate voted 30-20 for its own version of the same bill.
However, work remains.

The House made several changes to the bill, including requiring that a lottery corporation abide by longstanding Open Meetings and Public Records laws. When the bill passed the Senate Thursday, it said a lottery corporation would be exempt from the government sunshine laws. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant said he wanted the openness.

“Of course it needs to be open records and open meetings,” Bryant told reporters Friday outside the Senate chamber.

The House and Senate must agree on the identical bill before it could go to the governor, who is pushing lawmakers to create a lottery to generate money for highways and bridges. The Senate could either accept the House changes, or the two chambers could negotiate a final version.

The National Conference of State Legislatures says the states currently without a lottery are Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada and Utah.

Several House Democrats complained Friday that there was too little debate on the substance of the lottery bill in the Republican-controlled chamber. Among them was Rep. Steve Holland of Plantersville, who said he wanted a deeper debate but he believes a majority of people in Mississippi favor a lottery.

“It’s tainted and nasty. I’m still going to vote yes,” Holland said of the bill.

Democratic Rep. Alyce Clarke of Jackson has pushed for more than a decade to create a lottery.

“I know we’re doing the right thing,” Clarke said.

In the special session that started Thursday, Bryant is asking legislators to put hundreds of millions more dollars into state and local roads and bridges. One bill being considered would send cities and counties a portion of money that the state collects from sales tax on catalog and online sales. Proceeds from a lottery would also initially go into transportation.

A Senate committee made relatively minor changes Friday to a bill that would send cities and counties a portion of the sales tax money that the state collects on items purchased online. That bill could face disputes if leaders decide to designate some of the $300 million in bonds the state is borrowing for particular pet projects. The House removed such provisions when it passed the bill Thursday, but leaders indicated projects were likely to return before a bill goes to the governor.