Lawmakers Consider a Lottery, Medical Marijuana, and Common Core Repeal

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State lawmakers considered several bills this week. We unpack the week in Montgomery with Alabama Public Television’s Don Dailey.

Here are the highlights:

 

Common Core

The Alabama Senate approved legislation this week sponsored by Sen. Del Marsh to repeal Common Core, a set of academic standards adopted by 41 states and the District of Columbia. Alabama adopted these standards in 2010. Marsh cited the state’s low national rankings in math and reading. And he called for officials to take education in a new direction, though when asked by the Montgomery Advertiser, he didn’t offer specifics.

“In the past I have let our school board who dictates education policy have Common Core in place, but after 10 years, the state of Alabama is 49th in math and 46th in reading. We can’t keep going in that direction,” Marsh said in a video on social media announcing his filing of the bill.

Dailey said Marsh referred to the state school board as dysfunctional earlier this week. Education officials fought back.  “They said removing Common Core immediately would be a hardship. It would require teachers to learn yet another set of standards within so many years, and that there were just too many obstacles to overcome by doing this so quickly,” Dailey said.

Marsh said he wanted to work with the education community to draft Alabama’s standards to be better positioned to earn federal dollars. Democrats on the Senate floor, Dailey said, argued the move was rushed. Sen. Vivian Figures said Marsh’s bid to repeal Common Core was politically motivated.

Medical Marijuana

Republican State Rep. Mike Ball introduced a bill that would legalize medical marijuana in Alabama. The proposal has several Democratic co-sponsors, Dailey said. “It has to do with medical marijuana helping those who suffer from chronic pain and who are fighting terminal illness, to offer them comfort and relief, and that’s the philosophy behind this particular piece of legislation,” Dailey says. Many similar bills have been introduced in the Alabama legislature over the years, but none has been successful.

State Lottery

Republican state Sen. Jim McClendon announced earlier this week he plans to introduce legislation to set up a lottery. “He’s calling it a clean lottery bill,” Dailey said. That means no casinos, card or table games. The bill would set up a constitutional amendment for a vote of the people on this issue. It would also divide the revenue equally between the general fund and the education budget.

McClendon sponsored lottery legislation three years ago, but it was unsuccessful. And Alabama voters opposed a lottery in 1999. McClendon said he doesn’t see this as a transformative bill, but one that would keep Alabamians from crossing state lines to play the lottery.

Border Wall Funding

On Thursday, the Senate approved a bill that would allow Alabamians to donate a portion of their state income tax refunds to help build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico.

Residents would be able to check a box on their state income tax forms and donate to We Build The Wall Inc., a nonprofit started by a veteran, according to the Associated Press. The group’s website said the organization’s focus is on privately building parts of a border wall with Mexico.

“I think it’s a way for Alabamians to say to the president and to the nation that we think strong border security is important. We want to promote that. We want Washington to build that wall,” Republican Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said. Marsh sponsored the legislation and is considering a run for U.S. Senate in 2020. The bill now moves to the Alabama House of Representatives.

Alabama currently allows people to donate to about 20 groups and programs, such as cancer research and an organ donation awareness program, on their tax returns.

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