The legislative session is just two days old, but North Carolina lawmakers are already at odds over a state lottery.
State Rep. Bill Owens, D-Pasquotank, proposed a bill Wednesday that would allow individual counties to decide whether they want to participate in one.
If 25 counties would pass the issue, then a state lottery would be established with 25 percent of the money going back to the counties that are selling lottery tickets, Owens said.
Owens said counties would use 25 percent of that money to pay for school construction. The other 75 percent would end up in a statewide fund to pay for education initiatives.
Supporters of a lottery, including Gov. Mike Easley, say most North Carolinians want one. They point out that thousands of state residents are crossing the border every year to play lotteries in South Carolina and Virginia.
But opponents believe that the public opinion polls are flawed, and they worry that the money would end up in places other than education.
Its a bad, bad bill, said Rep. Russell Capps, R-Wake. North Carolina doesnt need to get in the lottery business. Thats terrible public policy.
It is unclear when lawmakers will take up Owens proposal. A committee has to approve it before it goes to the floor. But it is clear that it will provide plenty of debate this year.
Easley has pushed for a lottery before, but lawmakers have turned down the idea. In 2002, the House refused to allow a statewide referendum on the issue.