Yesterday, State Representative Christopher England posted an update about the legislative special session that begins today. He offered an explanation of the lottery proposals and what – if any – impact the money would have on Medicaid and state budgets. Many people saw it and commented – including, it appears, someone in the State Auditor’s office.
Rep. England posted this yesterday, and today the State Auditor’s office issued a press release titled: “Zeigler Explanation of Special Session.” His press releases are always good for a laugh, but this one seemed particularly well-written…. and familiar. More like “ENGLAND’S Explanation of Special Session.”
See for yourself. Here is Rep. England’s post:
And here’s the press release (emphasis is mine & typos are his):
A summary for taxpayers of what to expect in the lottery special session, compiled by State Auditor Jim Zeigler:
A threshold matter of business in the House will be the election of a new Speaker to replace former Rep. Mike Hubbard. It is expected to be Rep. Mac McCutcheon of Madison County, who was nominated by the House Republican caucus.
1. The session starts Monday, August 15 at 4 p.m. It will cost taxpayers about $350,000 regardless of whether anything passes.
2. The proposed lotteries are constitutional amendments. The people of Alabama will have the ultimate say. If the legislature were to pass a lottery proposal, it would bypass the Governor’s desk and go straight to the November ballot.
3. In order to make it to the November ballot, the bill must pass by August 24th. A bill takes at least five legislative days to pass, so working the proposals through the legislative process has no room for delay or indecision.
4. Since it is a constitutional amendment, passage requires a super-majority to pass in each body. It requires 3/5ths of the members present and voting in both the House and the Senate.
5. Passing a lottery during this special session will not have any impact on the current approximately $85 million Medicaid shortfall in next year’s budget. The administration will still have to find ways to cut Medicaid expenses or find money for next year’s shortfall in time for the October 1st start of the fiscal year.
6. Despite what Gov. Bentley says, a lottery is not a permanent solution. If the cost increases in Medicaid continue on their current pace, then by the time the state realizes any revenue from the lottery, it will already be spent and more needed..
7. There are at least two different proposals being offered. The Bentley proposal is a simple lottery with proceeds to the general fund. It does not mention Medicaid despite all the pitches about Medicaid. The Sen. McClendon proposal would authorize a lottery and electronic lottery terminals in counties that have local constitutional amendments already allowing pari-mutuel gaming. The McClendon proposal directs revenue to both the education trust fund the general fund and would generate more revenue.
8. Neither proposal has safeguards to assure that Bentley cronies cannot seek no-bid contracts with a lottery commission. Neither has safeguards to assure that Bentley cronies cannot create $200,000-a-year jobs with expense accounts for their friends and girlfriends. Neither has safeguards to prevent revenue from being diverted to pet political projects.
9. Rumors are abounding that the state senate will try to add a provision that would abolish the elected state board of education and make it appointed by Bentley.
10. Reports are abounding that the House may try again to push through a compromise on how to spend the BP funds, with some funds going to repay state debts, a large amount to Mobile and Baldwin County for infrastructure, and a much-smaller amount to all other districts for road building.
For updates on the special session, like Facebook page Zeigler: “Waste Cutter”
Much of Zeigler’s “compilation” (at least the coherent part) was lifted word-for-word from Rep. England’s post. In the writing business (but apparently not the auditing business), using someone else’s work without attribution isn’t “compiling,” it’s plagiarizing.
We’ve already noticed that Zeigler appears to be bored with his real job. And now this: perhaps our State Auditor is too busy picketing women’s clinics and addressing White Supremacist groups to do his own research.
Rep. England is known for his thoughtful, coherent Facebook posts about pending legislation, and often engages voters in discussions about the merits of particular proposals. It’s a model that all state officials should consider.
And if they do, we hope they’ll give credit where it’s due.