Tag Archives: lottery

Columnist presents case for ‘no’ on all 4 TN constitutional amendments

Seems columnist Robert Houk is leaning no on all four Tennessee constitutional amendments proposed on the November ballot. Excerpt from his opinion piece:

It should never be easy to change the state’s Constitution. That’s something I heard many conservatives, both Democrats and Republicans, say two decades ago when supporters of a state lottery were seeking an end to the state’s ban on gambling.

My, how times have changed. Since taking control of the state General Assembly, Republicans have championed a number of ballot initiatives to change the constitution. Most, like passage of a measure in 2006 to ban gay marriage in Tennessee, have been blatant efforts to codify their religious and partisan beliefs.

Tennessee’s gay marriage ban, however, could soon be struck down by the courts. Although it may be easy for some to use a perceived religious or moral authority to callously deny a fundamental kindness to a member of a minority group, the federal courts have ruled it should never be easy to deny that same minority any portion of the freedoms and protections they are guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.

There are four constitutional referendums on the ballot this fall. The most talked-about referendum on the ballot is Amendment 1, which… would give state lawmakers the power to require a waiting period prior to an abortion, place restrictions on abortion clinics and draft rules on what doctors are required to tell women prior to the procedure. If you want to know precisely what sort of things the Tennessee General Assembly has in mind if the abortion amendment passes, just check out what has transpired down in Texas.

Amendment 2 … will make it easier for a partisan governor to seat judges based not on their judicial scholarship, but on their politics. It could also set up the kind of partisan and ideological stalemates we’ve seen in Washington, D.C., when Republicans block every judicial appointment made by President Obama.

..Amendment 3… would tie the hands of future (and hopefully more progressive) lawmakers and would continue to saddle Tennesseans with a regressive and burdensome sales tax. Strangely, the most compelling argument I’ve heard for banning a state income tax is that it will help bring more retirees to Tennessee. We could soon be Florida, but with mountains instead of beaches.

Amendment 4 (would) … rectify what some are calling an oversight to the 2002 lottery amendment that left veterans groups off the list of charitable organizations allowed to hold raffles, reverse raffles and cakewalks. I don’t think it was an oversight.

When the then Democratic-led General Assembly finally voted to place a lottery referendum on the ballot in the late 1990s, Nashville was still reeling from “Operation Rocky Top” … I recall Republicans in the General Assembly at the time arguing that Rocky Top proved state lawmakers could not be trusted to legislate gambling in Tennessee. They urged their colleagues to leave the constitution alone.

Today, some of those same GOPers are asking voters to give them broad constitutional powers to interfere in a woman’s right to an abortion. As I said earlier, things have certainly changed.

Former TN lottery employee files sexual harassment lawsuit

A former employee is suing the Tennessee Lottery in federal court, saying supervisors constantly sexually harassed her and then had her fired for complaining, according to The Tennessean.

Former District Manager Denise Armstrong filed the suit Wednesday in federal court in Nashville, seeking her job back, back pay and an injunction against further harassment. In her suit, she names several supervisors, including current Executive Vice President of Sales Sidney Chambers, as creating a work environment hostile to women because of inappropriate remarks and sexual harassment.

…Officials with the Tennessee Lottery declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Armstrong had been an employee since 2003 and, according to her lawsuit, had been rewarded for her performance. But the suit says the harassment was constant.

For example, Chambers and other supervisors would joke about hiring “young pretty girls” for promotions and events and that they should hold a “hot yoga class” for female employees, the suit says. At a May 2012 convention, another supervisor, who has since retired, was called out for making inappropriate remarks about and even to female attendees.

After years under ‘vow of poverty,’ Knoxville man wins lottery jackpot

The largest lottery prize awarded in Tennessee history has gone to Roy Cockrum, who left Knoxville to become an actor, then took a vow of poverty to serve in a religious order returning to his native Knoxville to care for aging parents.

“I really believe the best way to prepare for this tsunami of cash has been to live under a vow of poverty for a number of years,” said Cockrum, who is 58 and single.

The prize would have been worth $259.8 million if spread out in annuitized payments. He instead opted to take the immediate cash value: $153.5 million.

Cockrum has been preparing for spending the money since realizing on June 12, a day after he bought the Powerball ticket at Kroger’s supermarket on Clinton Highway, that the six numbers on his $2 ticket matched the winning numbers that had been announced.

The realization literally “knocked me to my knees” for prayer, he said at a Tennessee Education Lottery Inc. news conference. But the first person he called – “before family or anyone else” – was Marshall Peterson, a friend and financial advisor with Holbrook Peterson Smith PLCC in Knoxville. Together they laid a plan for the money before he took the ticket to lottery officials Thursday.

Cockrum said he will set aside enough money for a “personal pension,” but most will go into a non-profit foundation he is setting up to support performing arts organizations around the nation and hto make “gifts to a long list of charities.”

“Everyone should know that my list of charities has already been set,” he said.

Cockrum made only a brief statement at the news conference with Rebecca Hargrove, CEO of the Tennessee lottery operation, and did not take questions. Lottery officials also provided other Cockrum comments in a news release.

He began his statement by noting the odds of winning the prize were 175.2 million to one and offered thanks to several people, including a Kroger employee named “Beth” who sold him the ticket, Peterson and a public relations executive who worked with him in preparing his statement.

Cockrum was born and reared in Knoxville and graduated from West High School, then left to earn an acting degree at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. He spent 20 years as an actor and stage manager for theater and television – a background that prompted him to form a foundation to benefit the performing arts – then join the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, an Episcopal religious community in Cambridge, Mass.

In2009, Cockrum returned to Knoxville to care for his parents. His father died a year later. Cochrum said handling of his winnings was based on his father’s money management advice: “Tithe a tenth, save a tenth and spend the rest wisely.”

AG: Some kinds of lottery ticket pooling are illegal in TN

In a formal opinion, the state attorney general has declared that Tennessee law prohibits participation in a lottery pool “managed by a third party” — throwing cold water on a Blount County man’s idea for a part-time business, though apparently not on informal pools among friends.

State Rep. Bob Ramsey, R-Maryville, said he requested the opinion from Attorney General Bob Cooper after a “senior citizen” constituent asked if his idea of a part-time retirement business would be legal.

Basically, the idea was to collect money for buying a large block of lottery tickets with the agreement that any winnings would be split among purchasers — with the money collector getting a fee for his services or a share of any winnings, Ramsey said.

When Cooper issued the opinion and posted it on the attorney general’s website, the question was posed as: “Is it lawful to conduct a lottery-ticket pool in which Tennessee lottery ticket holders pool their tickets and share in any prizes awarded on winning tickets?”

The short summary answer, in turn, was: “No. Such a lottery-ticket pool is ‘gambling’ within the meaning of (the state’s anti-gambling statute), does not fall within any of the exceptions to ‘gambling’ provided in (the statute establishing a state lottery) and therefore is unlawful.”
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Senate panel kills bill to keep lottery winner names secret

A Senate committee Tuesday spurned a proposal to keep secret the names of Tennessee lottery winners that was criticized both by media representatives and a lottery executive.

Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, said she sponsored the bill (SB2060) out of concern for “the vulnerability” of lottery winners unprepared for sudden wealth and beset with appeals for money or even targeted for crime.

But Frank Gibson of the Tennessee Press Association, Deborah Fisher of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, Whitt Adamson of the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters and Wanda Young Wilson, chief operating officer and attorney for the Tennessee Education Lottery Corp, testified against the bill before the Senate State and Local Government Committee.

“We can’t lose sight of the fact that we’re talking about a billion-dollar, quasi-public enterprise that relies on the trust of the public,” said Gibson, adding that the name of the winner establishes “that a real person won the lottery.”

Committee Chairman Ken Yager, R-Harriman, offered a similar concern, suggesting to Bowling that passage of the bill would “give birth to a wealth of conspiracy theories about whether everything is above board.”

“With all due respect, there are conspiracy theories about all sorts of things,” replied Bowling, who also contended that keeping winner names secret could boost lottery sales.

Some people “who are members of conservative organizations” may refrain from buying tickets because of concern for being publicly named a winner, she said.
“If you don’t want your name plastered all over, don’t buy a ticket,” said Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville.

When the bill came to a vote, only Bowling and Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron backed the measure while four senators voted no and two abstained.

Bible quoted to back bill warning lottery players ‘you’ll probably lose’

Sen. Jim Summerville, R-Dickson, has taken the first step toward passage of a bill that would require all advertising for the state lottery to include this warning: “You will probably lose money playing the lottery.”

A special Senate lottery subcommittee gave its blessing to the bill (SB1592) after hearing Summerville declare the warning is needed to protect people who spend money they shouldn’t on lottery tickets in the hopes of winning big.

Further from Richard Locker’s ‘post card from Nashville::

“Maybe you, like I, have seen people in convenience stores, liquor stores — which even I patronize — watching some poor son-of-a-gun line up his Social Security numbers, birthdays, marriages, death days in order to select the best possible combination of numbers to lift them out of the economic calamity of their lives — all for nothing,” he told his colleagues.

The current warning, “Play responsibly,” and inclusion of odds of winning on some lottery material isn’t enough, he said. “Just tell the truth: you’re probably not going to win this game. It may help some people hesitate before they spend that last dollar on a ticket.”

He drove his point home paraphrasing scripture, Isaiah 58. “Central to Isaiah’s comments in that chapter, and repeated probably more than any thesis in the Bible, Old Testament or New, is that the worst possible corruption of God’s people is not murder or robbery, idolatry or false witness but it’s the flagrant contempt of the poor among the community. Over and over again, the scriptures condemn exploitation of the poor by those of us who are not poor — the haves like us over the have-nots. To insist that the poor among us fund tuition supplements is just downright evil.

“This is a matter of conscience to me. I hate this game like an Old Testament prophet, and I admit that. I think it’s a blight on our beautiful state. … It is an abomination. Yes, the people approved it but the people can’t repeal the law of God.”

Cohen: Thumbs down on Haslam’s ‘Tennessee Promise’

The Tennessee lawmaker who led the creation of the state lottery and Hope scholarship program blasted Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to use proceeds to foot the cost of community college, reports The Tennessean.

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, said Tuesday that Haslam’s proposal to make community college free of charge for all rising high school seniors would “raid funds from the Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship surplus” to create a program that would discourage enrollment at the state’s top universities.

As a state senator, Cohen sponsored the 2002 constitutional amendment that repealed the state’s ban on lotteries. (Note: He has, indeed, been called the ‘father of the lottery’ and worked for years before 2002 to get lotteries legalized.)

“Over the last 10 years, the Hope Scholarship program that I worked for 20 years as a state senator to create has been an unparalleled success,” Cohen said. “But the governor’s ‘promise’ actually cuts funding from high-achieving students beginning four-year degree programs.”

..Cohen said the governor instead should use the lottery surplus to increase scholarships for all four-year students.

“The Hope scholarship has never fully funded college scholarships, as intended, because it has not kept up with the skyrocketing cost of higher education,” he said. “Rather than raiding the scholarship fund’s surplus to create a new government program, those funds should be used for what the people of Tennessee voted for.”

Haslam following in Bredesen’s footsteps with ‘Tennessee Promise’ in re-election year

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A popular Tennessee governor running for re-election wants to create a free community college program. Sound familiar?

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, who is up for a second term this fall, proposed the change in his State of the State on Monday night. His Democratic predecessor, Phil Bredesen, made a similar pitch en route to sweeping all 95 counties in 2006.

Haslam’s “Tennessee Promise” proposal would cover a full ride at two-year schools for any high school graduate, at a cost of $34 million per year. That’s $9 million more than Bredesen’s proposal, which would have required the equivalent of a C average to qualify for free tuition.

Despite his landslide win, Bredesen’s proposal never gained much traction in the Legislature. A scaled-back version was included into a larger lottery scholarship bill that passed the House, but ultimately failed in the Republican-controlled Senate in 2007.

Bredesen said at the time that his tuition proposal was overshadowed by all the attention paid to a 42-cent (cigarette) tax increase that narrowly passed the Legislature that year.

He was unsuccessful in reviving the tuition proposal over the following three years of his time in office, despite his belief that 2-year college represents a “magic ingredient” for improving Tennesseans’ access to higher education.
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College scholarship fund winning record amounts at TN lottery

New projections presented to the State Funding Board indicate Tennesseans will be losing record amounts of money playing the lottery this year, which translates into record amounts available for lottery-funded college scholarships.

From the Commercial Appeal:
Less than two years ago, after one down year for scholarship funding from the lottery, the state legislature was considering raising eligibility standards for Hope Scholarships, the main lottery-funded grant for students. But lottery sales have been on a roll ever since, and some lawmakers are talking about expanding the program.

On Tuesday, Andy Davis, chief financial officer of the Tennessee Education Lottery Corp., presented revised estimates for lottery proceeds to the State Funding Board. Davis said he now projects the lottery will turn over between $328 million and $333 million to the scholarship program in the current academic year.

That’s up from $321.5 million during 2012-13, and above the $322.7 million originally projected for this year.

…TSAC Director Tim Phelps said all lottery-funded scholarships are expected to cost between $306 and $329 million in the current school year, although the target estimate is about $311 million.

“Given the revenue projections and expenditure estimates presented today, I think we are safe to say that lottery-funded scholarships will be fully funded for the current year,” Phelps said.

About 102,000 students are receiving the various kinds of scholarships funded by the lottery, including the $4,000-per-year Hope Scholarship and the $2,000-per-year “Wilder-Naifeh Technical Skills” grants for use at Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology.

Even at the high end of the scholarship cost projections, there’s plenty of money to cover a deficit because the lottery has built up a reserve fund of about $400 million, which is generating interest income.

…Some state legislators are proposing making the scholarships available to more non-traditional students.

State Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis has proposed scholarships for adults who have some college credit to attend the state’s new online-degree program that serves working adults, Western Governors University, and for others to earn technical certificates required for various trades.

Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, has proposed additional funding to help military veterans earn degrees and for more undergraduates to work on double majors.

Kyle: Spend some of $400M lottery reserve sending more Tennesseans to college

Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, in a Commercial Appeal op-ed piece, calls for using some of the state lottery’s $400 million reserve help more Tennesseans go to college. That would be in tune with Gov. Bill Haslam’s “Drive to 55” program promoting college education, he says.

An incentive program that pays workers to go back to school and pays again upon college completion could provide individuals in the workforce with the means and motivation to return to school.

Scholarships granted on a first-come, first-served basis to attend Western Governors University, a new online degree program that serves working adults, could make a second career possible for more Tennesseans. The WGU program offers online degrees in high-demand fields such as teaching, nursing and information technology.

An expansion of the Wilder-Naifeh grant program could make it easier for workers to earn technical certificates. The program uses lottery funds for working adults who want to learn a trade. It was available to only 9,900 adults this year, but with $400 million in our reserve, doesn’t it make sense to consider expanding that investment in our workforce?