Originally created 04/29/01

Hodges keeps focus on lotto



COLUMBIA - While the South Carolina Legislature inched closer to enacting lottery legislation last week, Gov. Jim Hodges kept reminding the public what he thinks that law should look like.

On Tuesday, he had a brown-bag lunch with honor students from Sumter High School and talked about the heavy-duty loans their families are taking out to send them to college.

"Every day the House delays is another day these students are denied affordable access to college," the governor said. "It's time for lawmakers to listen to the will of the people and adopt the people's plan."

Mr. Hodges has said all along that what voters approved last fall was the plan he'd laid out, which would concentrate lottery proceeds on higher education with college scholarships and free technical schools.

The students he met with last week are in an advanced government class taught by Susan Hilton, who also taught Kevin Geddings. Mr. Geddings left the governor's staff last year to run the pro-lottery campaign.

On Wednesday, Mr. Hodges met with Rebecca Paul, the president and CEO of the Georgia lottery - a not-so-subtle reminder that the kind of lottery he promoted before last fall's election was modeled on Georgia's. Afterward, the two met with the media.

"Rebecca Paul is the most outstanding lottery director in the United States," Mr. Hodges said. "I'm pleased she is here to offer her insights on the dos and don'ts of a successful lottery start-up."

She said it's "like any other consumer product launch. It competes with Coca-Cola, Frito-Lay and Mars Candy for convenience store dollars. The lottery needs the freedom to adapt to an ever-changing marketplace."

Ms. Paul also stressed the importance of advertising, which some South Carolina lawmakers want to limit, and said legislative micromanagement can undermine a lottery. So can spending the money where the public never intended it to go, she said.

As they spoke, the House Ways and Means Committee was putting final touches on a 29-page bill that includes kindergarten scholarships and limited advertising and would restrict the commission that will run the lottery.

That bill was introduced in the House on Thursday and likely will come up for debate this week, said Langley Republican Rep. Roland Smith, who was on the subcommittee that worked on the lottery bill.

Of the versions the House has mulled over, this one is the closest to the Senate-passed bill but leaves "a lot to squabble about," Mr. Smith said. The House bill includes what House members call "safeguards" and senators call "restrictions." One of them would prevent anyone connected with the lottery from making political contributions.

The Senate bill would let the governor name five members of the lottery commission with the speaker of the House and president pro tempore of the Senate each naming two. The House bill would divide the nine appointments equally, giving the Legislature more power than the governor to control them.

The House bill would limit advertising to newspapers, periodicals and a lottery commission Web site. The Senate bill would allow ads on billboards, television and other venues.

Another difference in the bills is what games would be immediately available. Both would allow scratch-off and dollar games, but the House version also would allow multistate games such as Powerball to start immediately. It sets a Nov. 1 target date.

It's inevitable that the ultimate lottery law will be written in a conference committee and - despite the Republican takeover in the Senate - it's also likely that Clearwater Democrat Tommy Moore will be on that committee. With a reputation for crafting compromises on tough issues, Mr. Moore has been a point man for the governor's lottery plan.

Because of a death in his family, he hadn't seen the House bill late Thursday, but Mr. Moore said he could guess at the differences and common grounds.

"A lottery can't be efficient and effective if we load it down with a lot of restrictions," he said. "That seemed to be where the House was headed, and there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that we'll be taking this to conference."

He said some lottery opponents are trying to make it fail by hamstringing the commission.

Mr. Smith said he sees restrictions as essential to keeping the lottery clean and aboveboard. "I told the people I'd let them vote on a lottery, and I did that," he said. "When I went in the booth, I didn't vote for it myself, but now that the people have spoken, I am doing everything in my power to give them a good lottery and to see that every bit of the money goes to education."

Reach Margaret N. O'Shea at (803) 279-6895.