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Lottery Supporters Working To Win Over Undecided Votes In House

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The lottery may come up in the General Assembly Tuesday, or it may not. It is still unclear if there are enough votes to get support for it.

The lottery referendum could get its first review Tuesday afternoon in the House Rules Committee.

Support for the referendum lacks about five votes according to Rep. Bill Owens, D-Pasquotank County.

Before a session Monday night, House Speaker Jim Black met with the House Leadership. After the meeting, Black said a House committee will be taking up the issue Tuesday. A vote on the lottery bill by the full House could come as soon as Wednesday.

"Every representative represents 65,000 people and I think if a member wants to bring a bill through the bill process, if they have the votes to do that, then it should be heard," Black said.

Black stopped short of saying whether there are enough votes to pass the lottery bill. If the timetable holds true, the Senate could be debating the lottery bill by the end of the week.

"It is so amazing to me that it is so difficult to get lawmakers to vote for something so popular that so many people want, when they are willing to vote for so many things that people don't want," said Gov. Mike Easley.

Easley said state-sponsored gambling could generate millions of dollars to fund early education programs and reduce class size.

State Representative Bill Owens has sponsored no less than six lottery initiatives during his eight terms in the House.

"I see it as a voluntary tax, the people are going to do it. They are going to do it regardless," Owens said.

Chuck Neely, of Citizens United Against the Lottery, said the House would vote down a straight lottery. He said the House leadership is using a referendum to sneak in the back door.

"And then they are going to use that to attempt to sledgehammer and jimmy this thing through over people's best judgement. I think it is a sorry way to do business, to do legislative business, and I think frankly it's illegal," he said.

The 27 members of the House Rules Committee must first clear lottery legislation before it can be brought to a vote in the full House. The Rules Committee meets Tuesday afternoon.

Should the referendum pass, it would go before voters this fall. It would be used as a most accurate poll for how voters feel about the lottery in N.C.

South Carolina lottery officials are already scratching their heads for ideas to keep loyal customers from the Tar Heel state.

To counter the potential hit from competition, the lottery would boost in-store marketing along border areas.

S.C. expects to begin a multi-state Powerball lottery in October, with players competing for millions. S.C. has a head start on N.C. If lawmakers approve a lottery, it would take about four months to get the games running.

Beyond the lottery, state House budget writers are talking about Plan B if the gridlock continues over a revenue package.

Eight days into the new fiscal year, the House is having trouble getting enough votes for a budget plan.

Plan B would be for the Legislature to adjourn without adopting the budget adjustment and the governor would have to work with the state budget plan that is already in place.


Fred Taylor, Reporter
Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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