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VOL. 36 | NO. 12 | Friday, March 23, 2012




Lottery scholarship bill headed to Senate floor

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NASHVILLE (AP) - A proposal that would make cutting some students' lottery scholarships in half contingent on lottery revenues is headed for a floor vote in the Senate after a legislative committee approved the measure 9-2 on Tuesday.

The legislation sponsored by Republican Sen. Dolores Gresham passed the Senate Finance Committee. The companion bill was delayed until next week in the House Education Committee.

An original proposal sought to reduce by 50 percent the award for students who do not meet both standardized testing and high school grade requirements. A special panel of lawmakers recommended the proposal in November.

Right now, students can get a scholarship worth $4,000 for each of four years if they either earn a 3.0 grade point average in high school or score a 21 on their ACT college entrance exam.

Under the new legislation, the lottery scholarship requirements won't change if lottery proceeds of at least $10 millio n - or more - are maintained through 2015.

"We want them to sustain $10 million a year improvement," Gresham said. "It could be a dollar more; it could be two dollars more."

Supporters of the legislation have said it was initially proposed because the cost of the scholarship program was outpacing lottery revenues. To make up the difference in the short term, the state has dipped into the lottery reserves, which is more than $300 million.

Last month, Tennessee Lottery officials told the Senate Education Committee that the lottery has set record gross sales every month since July. Lottery education proceeds have increased 4 percent since 2005, with about $10 million more coming in a year. About $14 million is projected for this year.

Earlier this month, lottery officials announced record sales of $130 million in February.

Despite the positive numbers, Gresham said the trigger legislation is necessary in case the lottery proceeds take a dive.

"The point is, we are ready for anything that might occur," she said.

However, Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney of Jackson said the legislation is not needed, especially considering it wouldn't be utilized until three years from now.

"I'm not sure why we need to do this when we've had success with the lottery program," he said. "Seems to me that instead of setting a trigger in place down the road we can monitor what happens."

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