Bill On Lottery Disclosure Advances

Tuesday, February 27th 2007, 5:28 pm

By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) The Oklahoma Senate passed a bill on Tuesday that will allow winners of lottery jackpots to remain anonymous if they are members of a trust, but their names must be disclosed to the Oklahoma Lottery Commission.

Also under the bill, trust members must pay any back taxes or child support payments. Some lawmakers say current state law not does not provide for enough accountability to the public in how trusts are regulated.

The Senate also approved a measure to allow members of governmental entities to attend public events without violating the Open Meeting Act, as long as they do not discuss the people's business.

Sen. Kathleen Wilcoxson, R-Oklahoma City, said the names of individuals who win lottery prizes will remain public under her bill, which sets out how lottery trust winners are handled by the Oklahoma Lottery Commission.

The legislation passed on a 39-8 vote and now goes to the House for consideration.

A spokesman for the Oklahoma Press Association had questioned the fairness of permitting secrecy for lottery winners who form a trust, while individuals' names are public.

"I understand why people want to remain confidential (under a trust arrangement). I would want to, too," Wilcoxson said.

Legislation to address how trusts should be handled under the state lottery law was proposed after trusts claimed two big prizes in the Tulsa area last year.

One was a lump payment of $32.9 million, after taxes were deducted, when a trust claimed a $101.8 million Powerball jackpot on a lottery ticket bought at a convenience store in Broken Arrow. The trust said its beneficiaries wanted to keep their names private.

The bill on public meetings, by Sen. Owen Laughlin, D-Woodward, had been initially opposed by the OPA because of language that allowed governmental officials to gather informally if no public business was conducted.

Mark Thomas, executive vice president of the OPA, said "conducting business" had been construed by the courts as voting on things.

Laughlin amended the bill in committee to eliminate the association's concern.

"If there was any confusion, this makes it clear to the public that a public body cannot discuss business when members are at an informal gathering, such as a ball game or a party," Thomas said. "Discussion of business is clearly against the law."

Laughlin said some prosecutors had interpreted current law to bar officials from being together at public events.

"I never saw any of those people prosecuted, but I can tell you they live in fear of it," he said.

He said some officials from the Panhandle area he represents have been afraid to ride in the same pickup together.

His bill now goes to the House.

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