Local News

Lottery Bill Filed In House

Posted February 13, 2003 7:34 a.m. EST

— Voters would have their say on whether North Carolina should operate a lottery for education in a bill filed Wednesday in the state House.

The legislation was filed five months after the state House rejected a similar advisory referendum by a vote of 69-50.

Gov. Mike Easley, who wants a lottery with proceeds going to his education programs, lobbied for more than a year for the vote. A coalition of Republicans and liberal Democrats defeated the measure.

"It's still going to be an uphill battle, that's no secret," said Rep. Bill Owens, D-Pasqoutank, the bill sponsor. He's still hopeful because last year's vote was the first one in the House in recent history.

"That's better than it's ever been done before," Owens said.

Wednesday's bill would create a statewide referendum in which voters would check yes or no to the question of whether to have an "Education Lottery." The General Assembly would still have to approve a lottery for the game to become a reality.

North Carolina is the only state on the East Coast without a lottery. It will be surrounded by lottery states once Tennessee starts its game after voters approved state-run gambling in November.

Lottery supporters say North Carolina residents are educating children in other states when they cross the border to play lottery games.

Polls consistently have shown a majority of state residents support a lottery. Strong anti-lottery forces - including churches and social justice groups - helped persuade a majority of lawmakers to oppose the referendum.

Other legislation filed Wednesday includes:

  • a bill sponsored by Sen. Fern Shubert, R-Union, that would potentially limit spending in each year's state budget to the amount of tax collections from the previous year. The state now uses revenue projections to set spending limits. When those projections are too high, like in the 2000-01 and 2001-02 fiscal year, significant budget shortfalls can occur. Shubert's bill would allow spending to exceed the previous year's revenue with a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate. The measure would require voter approval because it changes the state constitution.
  • a proposal by Sen. Scott Thomas, D-Craven, to allow North Carolina to enter into agreements with other states in order to honor each other's handgun conceal-and-carry permits.
  • a bill sponsored by Rep. Rex Baker, R-Stokes, that would establish a constitutional amendment to prohibit the governor from seizing taxes collected on behalf of a local government. A similar bill failed last year, although compromise legislation was approved. The legislation follows Gov. Mike Easley's seizure of local money last year to help address a $1.6 billion budget shortfall.
  • a plan sponsored by Rep. John Blust, R-Guilford, would limit state budget growth each year with a formula that allows only for inflation and population growth to be considered. The spending limit could be exceeded with a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate. Colorado has enacted a similar plan to slow government growth. Blust entitled the bill, "Harlan Boyles Spending Control Act," after the former state treasurer who died earlier this year.