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Governor Bentley on State Lottery Proposals, House Committee Approves BP Funding Bill

Alabama State House
Jay Williams
Alabama State House

Alabama’s Senate and House of Representatives are back in Montgomery once again to try and find a solution to the state’s budget woes.

Governor Robert Bentley called the special session of the state’s legislature to find funding for Medicaid, infrastructure and state debt repayment. One of the most popular plans is to amend the state constitution to set up a lottery, with revenue directed into Alabama’s ailing General Fund.

Several lawmakers have proposed versions of a lottery bill so far. Governor Bentley submitted his own lottery proposal to the Legislature as well He discussed his plan last week during a visit to Tuscaloosa.

“The lottery, to me, is not my first choice, but it is about the only choice that we have, and we will see how it comes out. I’m not going to be critical, except I feel we have to have a mechanism to get it at least to the House, and let the House and Senate work that out. So we’ll just see what happens.”

If lawmakers manage to pass a lottery bill by August 24, Alabama voters will have the final say during the November 8 general election.

A state legislative committee has approved a plan for spending settlement money that Alabama received from the 2010 BP oil spill.

Yesterday, the House Ways and Means Committee approved a bill to use $450 million of the settlement for debt repayment and nearly $200 million toward road projects in coastal counties.

Supporters of this plan say it could help the state avoid Medicaid cuts. Committee chairman Steve Clouse says paying debt early would free up state funds that are currently earmarked, and would provide most of the additional $85 million that Medicaid currently lacks.

Alabama is set to receive $1 billion over the next 18 years to compensate for damages from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The House approved a similar plan in April, but lawmakers argued over how exactly to use the money.

New numbers from the Alabama Department of Public Health show more confirmed cases of the Zika virus. APR’s MacKenzie Bates has more.

Officials with the State Health Department say there have been a total of 25 travel-related positive tests for Zika from 16 Alabama counties. The counties are spread out all across Alabama from the Tennessee Valley to the Gulf Coast.

Doctor Tom Miller is a Health Officer for the state of Alabama. He says they are working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other outlets to identify individuals who need to be tested for Zika and those who have tested positive.

Zika virus is transmitted through the bites of Aedes species mosquitoes and through sexual activity. Zika infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly. That is a sign of incomplete brain development.

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