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State Lawmakers Still Have Work To Do, Fail To Adjourn Short Session

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RALEIGH — Tensions are high and tempers are short among lawmakers as the General Assembly's short session continues for at least another day. Lawmakers were unable to adjourn their session Wednesday after a day full of arguments and quick votes. Open Containers:The federal government threatened to withhold $170 million in highway construction money from North Carolina if the state does not pass a total ban on open containers of alcohol in cars.

Few appreciated the arm twisting from Washington, but after much debate, both the Senate and House relented.

State senators approved the ban by a vote of 36 to 6; the House approved it by a vote of 106 to 3. The measure now goes to the governor who will sign it into law.

Senators say they will ask the new Attorney General to challenge the federal government's authority to issue mandates in the future. Video Poker:A proposed ban on video poker machines is still under debate. The House wants to limit the number of machines to three per business and ban new machines. The Senate wants a total ban. The two sides are reportedly close to an agreement.

"We have been looking at increased penalties, how to change penalties and perhaps looking at various things such as hours of operation," says Rep. Phillip Baddour, D-Wayne. Toll Roads:The Senate voted Wednesday to allow the construction of two toll roads in North Carolina. A private developer wants to build a toll road across the Catawba river between Mecklenburg and Gaston counties. Tolls will not be charged on existing roads.

"We are not proposing to put a toll on an existing road. These will be short-cut highways. They will be alternative ways to move commerce and people," says Sen. David Hoyle, D-Gaston. "If you want to go the long way around, don't pay the toll. If you want to go the short way, you can pay it."

The House still vote on the toll road issue Friday. A second location has not been named yet.

Other items completed this session:
  • A $3 billion bond referendum for universities and community colleges. which will appear on the November ballot.
  • A $14 billion state budget will mean 4 percent raises for state employees and brings teachers closer to the national average pay scale with a 6.5 percent raise.
  • Lawmakers approved an equal share in the tobacco settlement among farmers, tobacco related business, and health programs.
  • The General Assembly reconvened at 9 a.m. As the session enters the eleventh hour, you might be surprised at what may become law.

    Hundreds of pages of bills are put in front of lawmakers at the last minute.

    "I know a lot of bills are voted on that some people never read," says Rep Robery Hensley, D-Wake County. "I think that most people in the General Assembly read at least a good part of the bills that they have some expertise, knowledge or interest in. There's no way you can read every word of every part of every bill and understand it."

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    Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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