LITTLE ROCK — State lawmakers on Friday approved hiring consultants to conduct a performance audit of the state lottery and a study of broadband access at public schools.

LITTLE ROCK — State lawmakers on Friday approved hiring consultants to conduct a performance audit of the state lottery and a study of broadband access at public schools.


In a single vote, the Legislative Council approved hiring Camelot Global Services of Philadelphia to study the lottery for $149,500, plus up to $20,000 in reimbursement of travel expenses, and hiring CT&T of North Little Rock for up to $993,780 to study the level of existing broadband access at every public school in the state.


The lottery proposal received no discussion Friday. Sen. Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana, told a subcommittee of the Legislative Council on Thursday that Camelot would prepare a report recommending ways to reverse a downward trend in lottery revenue. Company officials said they would have the report done in five weeks.


Hickey also said Thursday that no bids were taken for the project because Camelot, which runs the UK National Lottery and has done consulting work for various lotteries in the U.S., is uniquely qualified for the job.


The broadband proposal drew objections from some members.


"We can’t just get the Department of Ed to send (schools) a letter saying, ‘What service do you have?’" said Sen. Larry Teague, D-Nashville. "I understand schools have issues. It just kind of blows my mind we’re going to spend a million bucks to figure this out."


Rep. Jeremy Gilliam, R-Judsonia, said the Education Department has surveyed schools on their broadband access, but much of the information received has been inaccurate because schools often have the wrong person in charge of their technology, such as "a basketball coach or assistant volleyball coach."


Gilliam said consultants have advised that without more accurate information, the state could end up spending hundreds of millions of dollars erroneously. CT&T is expected to present a report to lawmakers before the next session begins, he said.


Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, said he was concerned that schools had not provided better information.


"If these schools want (improved broadband access) and it’s going to be this great thing, they ought to be jumping up and down getting the information and making sure it’s accurate," he said. "Why should we push ahead and spend a million dollars of people’s tax dollars when these schools seem like to be the root of the problem?"


Sen. Linda Chesterfield, D-Little Rock, said that even when schools are diligent in responding to questions, the responses vary according to individual school officials’ interpretations. The CT&T study would provide more objective information, she said.


"I know that the price is high, but the price is going to be even higher if our children do not have access to broadband and information technology," she said. "I would ask that we vote positively on this measure for the sake of the kids."


The contracts were approved in a voice vote. Several "no" votes were heard.