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Budget Finally Done, Legislative Session Starts To Wind Down

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RALEIGH — Is there life at the Legislature after the budget becomes law? Yes, as always. But at least lawmakers have an incentive -- the session is nearly done and soon they can go home.

"I wish we had gone home a month ago. It think it's time. We have about completed our work. We still have the patient's bill of rights to finish. We should be able to do that in the next couple of days," Sen. Tony Rand, D-Cumberland County, said.

Senators will get to go back home - and back to their regular jobs next week - since they have finished most of their work. It's the House members that have to stay. They still have a lot of work to do.

"Hopefully we'll be able to complete our business in two, no more than three, weeks, let's hope," Rand said.

House members still have to draw up those voting district lines, which will include a new congressional district. The Senate drew it's plan favoring Democrats. House Republicans intend on keeping the Democrats from walking away with the elections for the next 10 years.

"The makeup of the House, Republicans and Democrats, with a razor thin majority, always leads to interesting discussions. It will be more difficult, no doubt about that. And of course we have to satisify the minority districts and a lot of things play into it. But that is something we have to live with for 10 years," Rep. Carolyn Russell R-Wayne County said.

For the first time this year, there is a hearing scheduled for next week to talk about the lottery, which the House has to deal with. That has Gov. Mike Easley's attention because he thinks the lottery can make the state some money.

"Now, I'm not of a mind to ask anybody to pay any more taxes. I don't think the Legislature is, either. It seems to me this is an issue that the people ought to get a chance to vote on," Easley said.

House Speaker Jim Black said he expects a vote on the lottery next week. The Senate stops meeting after next week. The longest and most expensive legislative session is starting to wind down. As of Thursday, 142 legislative days have cost taxpayers $8.5 million.