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Lottery Proceeds on Arkansas 2024 Ballot

by Kristin Higgins - April 19, 2023

For the first time in nearly 40 years, Arkansas legislators sent only one constitutional amendment to voters. And it's an issue voters have seen before: lottery proceeds.

HJR1006 proposes expanding lottery scholarships to students bound for technical or vocational schools. Currently, proceeds are used for two-year and four-year college scholarships.
Lawmakers pushed through the amendment on the evening of April 6, less than 24 hours before they closed out the session. They will come back May 1 to officially adjourn until 2024.
The Arkansas Constitution allows lawmakers to put three constitutional amendments on the ballot for voters to decide, plus one about their salary.
Although there seemed to be support for other proposed amendments based on the number of cosponsors of bills and related discussions during the session, the House referred only the one ballot measure. The Senate didn't refer any.
Looking back at historical records, 1986 was the last time legislators referred only one ballot issue. Voters in 1994 also saw only one legislative issue because the Arkansas Supreme Court had removed others by Election Day.

Expanding Direction of Lottery Proceeds

The 2024 ballot issue is tied to one that came before voters in 2008.
After years of failed lottery proposals, a citizen initiative campaign led by then-Lt. Gov. Bill Halter succeeded in repealing a constitutional ban on lotteries. Proceeds from the new scholarship were earmarked for two-year and four-year college scholarships and grants.
Voters approved what is now Amendment 87 by a vote of 648,122 (63%) in favor to 383,467 (37%) against.
Since 2009, more than $1.1 billion in scholarship proceeds have been raised through the lottery, according to the lottery's website.
Qualifications for the scholarship include being an Arkansas resident for at least 12 months prior to enrollment and receiving at least a 19 on the ACT. Students qualify for between $1,000 to $5,000, depending on their status in school.
In 2017, legislators passed Act 613, creating and funding the Arkansas Workforce Challenge Scholarship. Lottery proceeds, in an amount of up to $800, could be awarded to students attending technical schools for certification in industry, health care, and information technology.
Former Sen. Shane Broadway helped present HJR1006 during a March 27 House committee meeting. He shared how lawmakers discovered the issue during the their 2009 legislative session.
"As we worked on developing the scholarship program we were told by our attorneys we could not include the state-owned vocational technical schools because they were not included in the definition in the constitutional amendment," Broadway said.
HJR1006's sponsor, Rep. Robin Lundstrum, said the details of what types of vocational education activities that would be covered would be fleshed out during a future legislative session if the amendment were to pass on Election Day. She said they must ensure the types of trainings covered would meet business needs in Arkansas.

Committee Discussions on Contenders

In all, lawmakers submitted 33 proposed constitutional amendments for the 2024 ballot. The number was not out of the ordinary compared to past years.
Legislators on the House State Agencies committee responsible for identifying the winning proposal reviewed seven other proposals: HJR 1002, 1003, 1005, 1008, 1009, 1011 and 1013. They ranked HJR1006 and HJR1009 the highest, but never voted on a second amendment.
The Senate's State Agencies committee reviewed SJR1, 2, 4, 6, 10, 15, and 20. SJR15, which would have reconfigured how state highway commissioners are appointed, "was the only bill that had consistency across the membership," Sen. Blake Johnson said during the April 4 committee meeting.
Committee members approved a last-minute amendment to SJR15 and it had four supporting votes. But SJR15 needed five votes to go to the full Senate.
"I was told it was a unanimous pick," said Sen. Bryan King, SJR15's sponsor, in an interview April 11. He said he made amendments to satisfy members, "who ultimately didn't vote for it."