Lawmakers from both parties question preliminary findings that show no evidence the state specifically targeted particular segments of the population in its marketing. The review comes after an investigation by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting that found lottery sales in Maine jump as unemployment increases.
The state committee charged with promoting transparency in government is asking lawmakers to overhaul a 2015 law that made secret information about the transportation of crude oil and other hazardous materials by railroad through Maine.
The legislature’s Right-to-Know Advisory Committee voted Wednesday to send a letter to the Judiciary Committee recommending that it reconsider the controversial law in order to ensure that the government is not keeping railroad data secret unnecessarily.
The Department of Environmental Protection will resume releasing data on oil rail shipments in Maine, reversing a five-month policy that kept the information out of the public eye.
Just last month, the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting filed a Freedom of Access Act request for the monthly data. The DEP, acting on the advice of the Attorney General’s office, decided that the oil data summaries were not covered by a new and controversial law that meant to make hazardous material rail shipments secret.
A 2015 law that ended the public’s right to know about hazardous freight on Maine railways sidestepped normal legislative processes, ignored federal policies and overcame a gubernatorial veto. Now even the law’s sponsor agrees it needs to be changed.
The Government Oversight Committee wants to know if “any particular demographic groups or regions of the state” are specifically targeted by the state lottery’s advertising, and “who has responsibility for overseeing those decisions.”
The Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability will also determine how winning a lottery prize may affect a person’s eligibility for public benefit programs.
Gov. Paul LePage said he believes the Maine State Lottery “absolutely” targets the poor and that if legislators passed a bill to end the lottery, he would sign it immediately.
Reacting to an investigative series by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, the legislature’s Government Oversight Committee has voted unanimously to fast-track a study of the Maine State Lottery. Panel members are keen to learn if the Lottery’s advertising strategy specifically targets Maine’s poor.
Lawmakers from both parties on Wednesday called for a bipartisan effort to pass legislation implementing a ban on people on public assistance buying lottery tickets with taxpayer-funded benefits.
The call to action follows revelations this week by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting that recipients of public assistance won $22.4 million in lottery prizes since 2010, including eight jackpots worth at least $500,000 apiece. The information was obtained through a public records request to the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
People on public assistance spent hundreds of millions on the lottery – and took home $22 million in winnings
Mainers on the state’s three major public assistance programs spent hundreds of millions on lottery tickets from 2010 to 2014 and won $22 million, according to a state analysis obtained by the Center through the public records law and an economist expert in state lotteries. Winning does not necessarily disqualify recipients from remaining on any of the programs (food stamps, aid to families and MaineCare). This is the fifth story in the series, “Lottery: Selling hope to the hopeless.”
Lawmakers from both parties are calling for closer scrutiny of Maine’s $230 million-a-year state-run lottery, including determining if its advertising targets Maine’s poor, who are the state’s most avid players.
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