State Sen. Jacob Candelaria on Wednesday amended his controversial bill on the state lottery, adding a guarantee that at least $40 million a year from ticket sales would go for college scholarships. His initial proposal would have eliminated a section of state law requiring that 30 percent of gross lottery revenues be turned over each month for scholarships. That version of the bill came under fire. Funding for scholarships is the sole reason the New Mexico lottery exists. In response to complaints by students at the University of New Mexico and others, Candelaria revamped his Senate Bill 283 by designating guaranteed payments for the scholarship program.
The state House of Representatives on Saturday approved a bill seeking to create bigger prizes in the state lottery, but not before heavily amending the measure to protect the lottery scholarship fund for college students. House Bill 147, sponsored by Rep. Jim Smith, R-Sandia Park, cleared the House on a vote of 37-30. It eliminates a requirement that the lottery turn over 30 percent of its gross revenue for scholarships. The lottery staff and lobbyists for lottery vendors said scrapping the funding requirement actually would one day lead to significantly more money for scholarships. Democrats and Republicans alike were skeptical of that claim.
The state lottery’s luck may have run out at the Legislature. A House committee on Wednesday tabled a bill that would end a requirement that the New Mexico Lottery turn over 30 percent of the gross revenue of ticket sales for the state’s college scholarship program. The lottery argues that scrapping the revenue requirement would allow it to boost prizes, in turn raising ticket sales and providing even more money for scholarships, which helped defray expenses for some 26,000 students last year. Critics contend the bill would amount to a blank check for the state lottery and mean less money for students. The 8-8 vote by the Appropriations and Finance Committee did not kill House Bill 147.
State law requires the New Mexico Lottery to allocate 30 percent of its gross revenues for college scholarships, a program that helped defray expenses for some 26,000 students last year. So effective was this system that it funneled more than $40 million annually to the scholarship program for nine consecutive years, helping many students obtain a college degree without the crushing debt that can come with loans. But lottery revenues dipped in 2017, a fact that figures heavily in another attempt to change the law. A Republican lawmaker has revived an annual bill to eliminate the requirement of pledging 30 percent of gross lottery revenues to college scholarships. House Bill 147, sponsored by Rep. Jim Smith of Sandia Park, proposes that at least $38 million in net revenue go to the scholarship program.
Financial bonuses for state lottery officials and contractors would be tied to increases in scholarship money available to New Mexico college students under a bill that got unanimous bipartisan approval from a House committee Monday. House Bill 250, sponsored by Rep. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho, also would require the state lottery to transfer money from unclaimed cash prizes — usually $2 million to $4 million a year — to the lottery scholarships fund. In addition, the bill would halt a pilot program launched last year in which lottery tickets are sold at self-serve gasoline pumps. Lottery officials launched the program at 13 gas stations — and 100 gas pumps — around the state, despite the fact that a House committee in 2015 killed legislation sought by lottery officials that would have legalized gas pump lottery ticket sales. HB 250 would prohibit all video lottery games connected with fuel pumps or automatic teller machines.
Ana Ochoa, a freshman studying business administration and accounting at the Santa Fe Community College, is one of thousands of students across New Mexico who depend on the state’s Lottery Scholarship Fund to help pay for school. But she worries about the fund’s dwindling fortunes. She’s not alone. Over the past few years, demand has outpaced supply for the money, and students who once had 100 percent of their tuition paid by the fund have seen that share shrink to 95 percent, and then 90 percent. The share would have sunk even lower if lawmakers had not decided to pull money two years ago from the state’s general fund and alcohol excise tax revenues to supplement the scholarship fund two years ago.
RUBE RENDER is the Curry County Republican Chairman and a local columnist with the Clovis News Journal. In a recent edition of the “Journal of Medical Ethics” two Oxford University medical ethicists argue that “The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual.”
This leads them to the conclusion that parents should be allowed to have their newborn babies killed, as ending their lives is no different than an abortion. Whenever some print media covers the abortion issue, they always put scare quotes around the “so called” partial-birth abortion. One reason they do this is that to call the killing of a fully formed baby in the birth canal what it actually is would be murder. Several states have passed legislation that bans abortion after 20 weeks and the New Mexico Legislature attempted it once again during its just-completed 60-day session.