Lottery’s fortunes reverse

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 1, 2005

RALEIGH – The lottery is coming to North Carolina.

In a stunning reversal, the state Senate approved the measure on Tuesday after Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue broke a 24-24 tie.

The governor was scheduled to sign the bill on Wednesday.

The lottery failed last week after the Senate failed to vote on the measure because supporters lacked enough votes for passage and couldn’t sway lottery opponents to change their mind.

After the Senate adjourned last Wednesday, Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight, D-Dare, insisted the Senate wouldn’t return to Raleigh for work until next spring.

However, Basnight emailed senators last Friday and told them a floor session would be held Tuesday morning.

When the Senate debated the lottery bill again on Tuesday, two Republican Senators, both lottery opponents, were absent.

The two absent senators were John Garwood of North Wilkesboro and Harry Brown of Onslow County. Garwood was recovering at home from a staph infection in his leg and Brown was on his honeymoon.

Local State Senator Robert Holloman, an Ahoskie Democrat, voted in favor of Gov. Mike Easley’s Education Lottery.

&uot;Personally I do not agree with the lottery, but the people want the lottery&uot; said Senator Holloman.

&uot;The lottery will enhance public education in North Carolina,&uot; Holloman continued. &uot;I don’t have the exact figures, but the lottery should provide an additional 3 to 8 million dollars for local counties.&uot;

&uot;Money from the lottery for public education is supposed to be an addition to the funding education receives now,&uot; Holloman added. &uot;I just hope the General Assembly in the future will not try to cut education funding and replace the funding with money from the lottery.&uot;

Opponents of the lottery objected to the Senate taking up the measure on Tuesday and tried unsuccessfully to block the vote with a series of parliamentary procedures, but the Democratic majority backed Perdue in her ruling that the Senate could take up the bill.

Angry Republicans blasted Basnight and accused him of &uot;flip-flopping&uot;.

&uot;Basnight failed to do the honorable thing by pushing through a lottery while lottery opponents were unavoidably absent,&uot; said NCGOP Chairman Ferrell Blount. &uot;Basnight assured Senators that there would be no further business conducted, prompting Senator Harry Brown to go on his honeymoon.&uot;

With Democrats holding a 29-21 edge in the Senate, most political observers thought that a state-run lottery would finally become reality after nearly two decades of trying.

However, five Democrats joined forces with the state’s 21 Republican senators, leaving lottery supporters short of the necessary votes.

In April, State House of Representatives members Howard Hunter Jr. (D-Hertford County) and Michael Wray (D-Northampton County) were part of a 61-59 majority in favor of the lottery.

North Carolina is the 42nd state and the last state on the East Coast to approve a lottery.

A number of lottery bills have come through the Legislature over the past 20 years, but this bill is the first to finally pass.

North Carolina will probably have to wait at least a year before a lottery is in place. A nine-member commission chosen by the Governor, President of the Senate and Speaker of the House must be appointed and a lottery operator company must be selected.

The lottery bill does not specify what sort of games will be played in North Carolina so the commission will choose the games, usually some type of scratch-off tickets and lotto-type drawings.

Democratic Gov. Mike Easley has been pushing for a lottery since taking office in 2001.