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General Assembly Adjourns Heated Short Session With Compromise on Video Poker Bill

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RALEIGH — State lawmakers decided to take a gamble on video poker Thursday, and tempers heated up as the General Assembly finally ended the short session.

Boththe House and Senatepassed a bill that does not ban the machines, but puts strict regulations on them.

The bill limits three poker machines per business and prizes to $10. It also prohibits play on Sundays and for those under 18.

It does not apply to the Cherokee casino in western North Carolina. The bill now goes to the Governor for approval.

Earlier in the day, members of the General Assembly were at odds with each other in a debate over where people can vote.

House Bill 767 allows local election boards to decide by a majority vote where satellite polling places should go. The issue is that Democrats dominate the boards and would be making the decisions. Republicans say the bill could give Democrats an edge in the next election.

Lawmakers expressed their anger as the bill came to the floor of the House for debate. Tempers flared so much that the state Speaker had to call Capitol police because the debate was getting too lively.

"Of all the things I've seen and heard in here in the last 14 years, I've never seen what I saw earlier this morning in losing the decorum and integrity of this House," says Rep. Alex Warner, D-Cumberland.

The House bill does not sit well with Republican lawmakers.

"I would be against this simply for the fairness issue. It is not fair," says Rep. Michael Decker, R-Forsyth.

"You're trying to take away a right paid for in blood, and that's now part of our heritage," says Rep. Gene Arnold, R-Nash.

Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham, disagrees with the Republicans' stance.

"I don't really think the bill is unfair to Republicans," Luebke says. "I think that Democrats and Republicans can equally take advantage of this by working through theState Board of Elections."

The measure passed by a vote of 61 to 48 with members voting along party lines. The bill will become law, but it leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of some lawmakers.

"We should have folded it up and went home last night, and here we are up here pussy-footing around with this thing," says Rep. Donald Davis, R-Harnett.

Legislators resolved differences on a private toll road project, what studies to conduct before the new Legislature convenes in January and changes that could help reduce deficits in the state health plan expected next year.

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Amanda Lamb, Reporter
John Cox, Photographer
Kamal Wallace, Web Editor

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