Some Tennessee Black lawmakers might reject lottery board

By Nobel Johns

Chattanooga(BNW)— Some African-American members of the legislature say they might vote against confirmation of Gov. Phil Bredesen's appointees to the state Lottery Board because, as they see it, minority-owned businesses in Tennessee are not receiving a fair share of lottery-associated business.

Bredesen said he had talked with members of the legislature's Black Caucus and agreed with their concerns.

He said he had asked lottery President and CEO Rebecca Paul and board Chairman Denny Bottorff of Nashville to come up with a plan to transition out-of-state contracts to Tennessee businesses.

The law enacted last year creating the lottery mandated that the board strive to see that minority businesses receive at least 15% of the business for lottery goods and services, but it did not specify that those businesses must be located in Tennessee.

Resolutions confirming the seven members of the board have cleared the Senate State and Local Government Committee and are scheduled for a vote in the comparable House committee next week.

''I really think the lottery board has done a good job,'' Bredesen said. ''If they were to get rejected for political reasons it would be tough to get really good people to serve.''

Contracting with out-of-state businesses was unavoidable in some area because of the speed with which the lottery was started, the governor said.

House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh said yesterday that he was not actively soliciting votes for the confirmation resolutions. ''The (Bredesen) administration is working that,'' he said.

The legislature has 18 African-American members, 15 of them in the 99-member House and three in the 33-member Senate.

Rep. Kathryn Bowers, D-Memphis, a member of the Black Caucus, said there have been some caucus discussions regarding confirmation of the seven members.

Three of the members are black — Jim Hill of Chattanooga, Deborah Story of Nashville and Marvell Mitchell of Memphis. The others are Bottorff, Morris Fair of Memphis, Jim Ripley of Sevierville and Claire Tucker of Nashville.

''Right now Black Caucus members are still meeting and discussing it. It is not about just the hiring. It is about the minority participation in the overall process of the lottery,'' Bowers said.

''We realize there are some minority businesses that participate with the lottery, but the better percentage of them are from outside the state of Tennessee.

''We thought it was going to be a process where minorities would have an opportunity to participate from the business aspect of the lottery. What we found is about 1% of the black business is in Tennessee, which is unacceptable to us.''

The law enacted last year to create the lottery directed the board to have a plan maximizing participation of minority-owned businesses, with a minimum of 15%. But it did not require that those businesses be in Tennessee.

Bowers said she had discussed the situation with Paul.

''I think she was concerned about what I had to say,'' Bowers said. ''Right now the caucus has not made a decision on what position we are going to take.''

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