(The Center Square) – Arkansas voters will decide on a constitutional amendment in 2024 to allow the state’s lottery proceeds to be used to fund grants and scholarships for vocational-technical schools and technical institutes.
The amendment was introduced as House Joint Resolution 1006 on February 7, 2023. It was passed in the House on April 4, 2023, by a vote of 97-0 with three members absent or not voting. The Senate passed the amendment on April 6, 2023, by a vote of 30-0 with five members absent or not voting.
To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a simple majority vote was required in both the Arkansas State Senate and the Arkansas House of Representatives. The 2023 legislative session adjourned on April 7. The state legislature can refer up to three amendments to the 2024 ballot, meaning two more amendments could be considered and referred to voters when state lawmakers meet again during next year’s legislative session.
Arkansas is one of 45 states that have a state lottery. The state lottery was created through voter approval of Amendment 3, a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment, in 2008. It was approved by a vote of 63% to 37%. At the time of the election, Arkansas was one of eight states that did not have a state lottery. Under the amendment, lottery proceeds were set to be used to fund scholarships and grants for students enrolled in “public and private non-profit two-year and four-year colleges and universities located within the state that are certified according to criteria established by the General Assembly.” The initiative was sponsored by Arkansas Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter (D). The Arkansas AFL-CIO endorsed the 2008 amendment and helped collect signatures to qualify it for the ballot. Union president Alan Hughes said, “Our members feel this would help things a lot. They just want the same opportunity their counterparts have in other states, so their families have an opportunity to send their children to college.”
Opponents of the 2008 state lottery amendment included the Family Council of Arkansas, the United Methodist Church in Arkansas, and the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council.
Shane Broadway, vice president for university relations for the Arkansas State University System, said, “As we worked on developing the scholarship program, we were told by our attorneys we could not include state-owned vocational-technical schools because they were not included in the definition in the constitutional amendment.”
According to the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, the lottery has raised more than $1.2 billion in proceeds benefiting college students since 2009.