Opinion

Solon's proposed new lottery policy worth discussion

The proposal will be moot in your case if you win today's drawing. We're reasonably certain that if you hit the right six numbers in a $1.5 billion Powerball jackpot, you're not likely to care.

Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, will again be at the center of a hotly debated hot-button issue when his "Religious Freedom Bill" comes back up for debate. But for the moment, another McKoon idea is intriguing.

It's about the option of anonymity for lottery winners, something other state-sponsored lotteries offer but Georgia does not. The identities of lottery winners here are made public, ostensibly in the interest of transparency and, obviously, for the publicity value.

McKoon's suggested legislation would allow winners to collect their money anonymously -- for a price. The senator's tentative figure would be 25 percent, although he told an Atlanta television station that the figure is negotiable.

It's an idea worthy of consideration. People who come into large sums of money often face hassles, and even threats, that they shouldn't have to deal with (even if "downside" of their newfound fortune isn't likely to elicit much sympathy from the rest of us).

Some other details, obviously, need to be thought through. For instance, if a lottery winner gives a percentage of winnings to the state in exchange for anonymity, what are the tax ramifications? Will the winner be taxed on the full prize, or just on what he or she collects after the state takes its cut? Beyond that, will winners get tax credits on what they do collect, as a result of the big chunk already paid to the state?

And perhaps most important: What will the money be used for? An obvious answer is education, as that was the purpose of the Georgia Lottery in the first place. If the state is going to get big chunks of some lottery winnings as well as ticket proceeds, the use of the money needs to be spelled out.

It will be instructive to see where this one goes.

Historic bookends

It's interesting how often history's pendulums swing all the way over (or sometimes all the way back) in what is an otherwise arbitrary human time span.

Case in point: Fifty years ago this month, the Georgia General Assembly was debating strict anti-gambling legislation backed by Gov. Carl Sanders. This month, the Georgia General Assembly will likely be debating whether to legalize casinos.

Another: Fifty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court was weighing whether states could arbitrarily ban labor unions. This year, the court will decide whether public employee unions can arbitrarily charge fees to non-members.

Maybe such bookends are significant, or maybe they're just timeline coincidence. Either way, none of the issues involved could be called trivial.

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