Thursday is the last day of the legislative session, and the fate of a handful of bills are still unknown — one of them being House Bill 147.
HB 147 challenges the way the Lottery Foundation allocates money for the Lottery Scholarship. Currently, the scholarship receives 30 percent of the net revenue from the New Mexico lottery, which includes ticket sales.
As introduced, the bill calls for an elimination of the 30 percent allotment and instead proposes a flat rate of $38 million allocated to the fund per year. If the foundation cannot provide the $38 million, they would be required to only allocate 30 percent of their net revenue.
The bill was passed in the House of Representatives 37 to 30 on Saturday, but not without major changes. Three amendments were introduced and passed.
Rep. Jason Harper, a Republican representing Sandoval County, introduced the first amendment, which limits how much the foundation can spend in operating costs to 15 percent of their gross revenue.
Noah Michelsohn, director of communications for the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico, said this amendment ensures that the Lottery Foundation will not keep more money to operate, such as in the form of internal raises, and therefore potentially leaving the scholarship with less money.
The second amendment, introduced by Democratic Rep. Matthew McQueen, who represents parts of Bernalillo, Santa Fe, Torrance and Valencia counties, increased the flat rate of $38 million guaranteed to the scholarship to $40 million.
The third amendment was introduced by Rep. Alonzo Baldonado, a Republican representing Valencia county. This final amendment makes certain that unclaimed lottery prize money will be alloted to the scholarship on top of the already guaranteed $40 million.
David Barden, CEO of the Lottery Foundation, said the unclaimed prize money totals around $1.5 and $2 million annually.
The raise in the cap would have surpassed fiscal year 2017’s allocation to the scholarship by $2.2 million, but would have fallen short of the $46.3 million received in 2016.
In a previous interview with the Daily Lobo, Royce Deller, director of ASUNM Governmental Affairs, said that over the past five years the scholarship has received an average of $42 million per year.
Michelsohn said ASUNM is “100 percent in support” of the bill with these new amendments.
ASUNM changed its tone on the bill, as the amendments satisfy all of ASUNM’s requests.
Michelsohn said the amendments are the “exact stuff we asked for.”
He said, ASUNM will continue to make its presence felt in the Roundhouse and that he encourages students to call their representatives to advocate for the bill.
After the HEC passed the bill, Representative Linda M. Trujillo, a Democrat from Santa Fe and member of the House Education Committee, said she supports the Lottery Scholarship, but that this bill is not the way to do it.
Trujillo was one of the two House Education Committee members to vote no on Feb. 31 and was one of the 30 representatives who voted against the bill, along with the three new amendments last weekend.
“My hope is that we find other revenue streams to fully fund lottery scholarships,” she said.
Barden said now that the HEC passed the bill, the Lottery Foundation is looking forward to working with students to make sure they get more money for the scholarship, because they recognize its importance to students.
The bill currently sits in the Senate Finance Committee, waiting for a vote.
Madison Spratto is a news editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Madi_Spratto.