by Max Brantley
The Thursday night line is open. Final words:
* THE MEAN STREETS OF LR AND THE MEAN LR COPS: The Guardian has taken another look at use of force by the Little Rock police force, with detailed reporting on pending legal actions over excessive force. The article includes comments from the Arkansas Blog. I still hold to the belief that an independent review of police behavior past and future is vital to restore confidence in the force in many elements of the community (and not only the poor, black parts of town, but particularly those.) The Guardian also has separate articles on the case of Landris Hawkins and Colin Spradling.
* ENTERGY'S NEW DISTRIBUTION DEAL: Entergy announced today that it was nearing completion of the approval process to switch its membership in an energy transmission network from the Southwest Power Pool to Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator. The company said the Public Service Commission had approved the transfer subject to continued compliance with PSC conditions. Entergy said the company now has a clear path to join the new system by December, a move that Entergy said should save ratepayers $25 million a year over the next 10 years.
* SUPER SID: Article on Sporting Life Arkansas bemoans the failure of Hog and pro great Sidney Moncrief to be chosen for the pro basketball hall of fame.
* GROWING GOVERNMENT: The House passed Republican legislation to create an inspector general's office to investigate Medicaid fraud. But Rep. Bruce Westerman got worked over pretty good in the process by Democrats who sharply noted that Republicans were proposing to create two new six-figure jobs in the office with some of that free federal money they normally decry. Most of the unit will be composed of existing integrity unit employees now at work in DHS. Westerman said he was sure the new independent unit and the new employees and increased bureaucracy would more than pay for itself in trimming fraud, waste and abuse. The questioning rankled Rep. John Burris who took to the well to criticize the "junior high" behavior. Seemed perfectly fair to question an opponent of bigger government why he was proposing bigger government without much of a case that a couple of $150K employees would suddenly produce huge new savings for existing fraud operations at DHS, the attorney general's office and the Insurance Department.
* JOHN MCCAIN IN TOWN FRIDAY: Sen. John McCain's Clinton School lecture has been rescheduled for 6 p.m. Friday at Robinson Center.
* ARKANSAS LOTTERY OPPOSES LEGISLATED SCHOLARSHIP MANDATE: A bill to require expenditure of 75 percent of lottery revenue on college scholarships will be considered in a legislative committee and the lottery has distributed a statement about its opposition, which you can read on the jump. The lottery is right. If the lottery is required by law to pay more in scholarships, the money can be made only by reducing its biggest expense, payouts to gamblers. If odds grow longer and payouts reduce, the likelihood is that gambling will decline.
Friday afternoon, HB 2263 will be presented to the House Rules committee at the Capitol. HB2263 mandates that 25% of total lottery proceeds be used to fund college scholarships. The Arkansas Lottery Commission (ALC) strongly opposes this bill because of the immediate and detrimental effect it will have on lottery ticket sales, revenues paid to our retailers in the form of sales commissions and most important, college scholarship revenue.
To attain the mandate set forth in HB2263, ALC will be forced to significantly lower lottery game prizes paid to Arkansas players which, in turn, will reduce ticket sales. Reduced ticket sales will have the obvious effect of reducing scholarship revenue. When ticket sales shrink, retailer commissions paid to over 1,850 businesses across Arkansas will go down, cutting into their profits.
The Arkansas Lottery now responsibly operates at 13 positions below its allotted positions under statute. The agency has reduced its salaries paid out by more than $600,000 in the past 18 months, placing heavier workloads on staff members. To attain the mandate of HB2263, the agency will face new and deeper cuts in already reduced operational costs, including staffing.
Finally, this mandate will likely result in future lottery vendors demanding higher contract rates, further diminishing the amount of money the lottery will raise for scholarships for Arkansas students.
Arkansans don’t have to speculate about what will happen if HB2263 is enacted. They need only look at the low per capita sales of the Louisiana and Oklahoma lotteries, where percentages are in place, and at the dismal sales of the Texas lottery following the enactment of similar legislation in Texas in 1997. That year, the Texas legislature imposed a prize payout limitation, and Texas lottery revenues slumped from $2.3 Billion to $1.4 Billion in two years. Upon convening in 1999, the Texas legislature reversed the legislation, but it took five years for the Texas lottery to return to its previous production levels. In those seven years, the Texas lottery’s sales fell a cumulative $3.54 billion dollars, cutting Texas lottery profits for the state by almost $1.1 Billion dollars.
HB2263 would undoubtedly have a negative effect on the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery advertising budget. States with similar mandates have been forced to slash advertising dollars paid to statewide and local newspapers and television and radio stations.
Most important are the Arkansas students and their families who have relied on Lottery Scholarship funds for over three years and will continue to do so. If enacted, HB2263 will reduce by millions of dollars the scholarship funds for those students and families. Those scholarships in many cases make the difference between a student being able to attend college, or not, due to insufficient funds. For the sake of Arkansas students and families, and the thousands of businesses across Arkansas which profit when the Scholarship Lottery profits, the Lottery Commission will actively oppose HB2263.