ATLANTA -- The Georgia Senate passed a constitutional amendment Friday calling for a public vote in 1992 on a lottery to improve education.
The Senate voted 47-9 in favor of the amendment resolution, nine votes better thanthe two-thirds margin necessary for passage of the measure championed by Gov. Zell Miller during his gubernatorial campaign last year.
'The people of Georgia are going to have a chance to vote on a lottery,' an elated Miller said after the vote. 'They will have a chance to express their opinions -- the purest form of democracy.'
Miller said the lottery, if approved by the electorate, would provide an additional $250 million to $400 million yearly to improve public education in Georgia, perenially ranked among the worst in the nation.
The proposed amendment, House Resolution 7, authorizes the General Assembly to establish a lottery. Legislation required for operation and regulation of the game would be considered during the next legislative session.
'Educating our children is the most important investment we can make in our future,' said Miller, a former teacher. 'The lottery proceeds would be used for new and creative educational programs, such as a comprehensive drug education program in every school, and voluntary pre- kindergarten for four-year-olds.
'My amendment would place the funding in a special budget category to ensure that these funds remain in the pockets of our school children. '
Lotteries in other states have been criticized because while they were passed to fund improved education, funds were diverted to other purposes.
Although the resolution does not require the governor's signature, a public referendum is required to supercede the Georgia Constitution's current ban on gambling. The vote will be held during the general election in November 1992. If approved, the first lottery tickets would be available to the public in 1993.
House members approved the measure with a six-vote buffer, 126-51, on Jan. 31, after heavy lobbying by Miller's aides. A similar lottery bill was killed in a House committee last year despite the popularity of the Florida lottery among Georgians. Former Gov. Joe Frank Harris, backed by a legion of Bible-belt lobbyists, defeated the measure on moral grounds.
'I think it shows confidence in the people of Georgia,' Miller said then. 'I feel good today.'