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Lottery Bill Filed In House

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Voters would have their say on whetherNorth Carolina should operate a lottery for education in a billfiled Wednesday in the state House.

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

Gov. Mike Easley, who wants a lottery with proceeds going to hiseducation programs, lobbied for more than a year for the vote. Acoalition of Republicans and liberal Democrats defeated themeasure.

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

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

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

North Carolina is the only state on the East Coast without alottery. It will be surrounded by lottery states once Tennesseestarts its game after voters approved state-run gambling inNovember.

Lottery supporters say North Carolina residents are educatingchildren in other states when they cross the border to play lotterygames.

Polls consistently have shown a majority of state residentssupport a lottery. Strong anti-lottery forces - including churchesand social justice groups - helped persuade a majority of lawmakersto oppose the referendum.

Other legislation filed Wednesday includes:

  • a bill sponsored by Sen. Fern Shubert, R-Union, that wouldpotentially limit spending in each year's state budget to theamount of tax collections from the previous year. The state nowuses revenue projections to set spending limits. When thoseprojections are too high, like in the 2000-01 and 2001-02 fiscalyear, significant budget shortfalls can occur. Shubert's bill wouldallow spending to exceed the previous year's revenue with atwo-thirds vote in the House and Senate. The measure would requirevoter approval because it changes the state constitution.
  • a proposal by Sen. Scott Thomas, D-Craven, to allow NorthCarolina to enter into agreements with other states in order tohonor each other's handgun conceal-and-carry permits.
  • a bill sponsored by Rep. Rex Baker, R-Stokes, that wouldestablish a constitutional amendment to prohibit the governor fromseizing taxes collected on behalf of a local government. A similarbill failed last year, although compromise legislation wasapproved. The legislation follows Gov. Mike Easley's seizure oflocal money last year to help address a $1.6 billion budgetshortfall.
  • a plan sponsored by Rep. John Blust, R-Guilford, would limitstate budget growth each year with a formula that allows only forinflation and population growth to be considered. The spendinglimit could be exceeded with a two-thirds vote in the House andSenate. Colorado has enacted a similar plan to slow governmentgrowth. Blust entitled the bill, "Harlan Boyles Spending ControlAct," after the former state treasurer who died earlier this year.
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