The newly appointed North Carolina Senate Select Committee on the Lottery this week will begin looking at the lottery bill passed by the House and will start crafting a bill for the Senate, the committee chairman said.
“We’re going to start moving now,” said Sen. Tony Rand, D-Cumberland, a longtime lottery supporter. “We’ll have to see how it all fits together.”
Fresh off a razor-thin margin in the House, Rand said supporters would have to figure out how to get a lottery through the Senate, where its future is uncertain.
Combining the lottery with other items — “sin” taxes, another tax package or the state budget — will be among the proposals considered by lottery supporters.
“There’s nothing that has been agreed on, but there is nothing that has been cast aside, either,” Rand said.
Senate GOP leaders say all 21 Republican senators plan to vote against the lottery. And five of the 29 Democratic senators are on record as opposing a lottery.
That adds up to 26 senators against the lottery and 24 in favor.
One more “yes” vote would throw the Senate into a 25-25 deadlock and allow Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, a lottery supporter, to break the tie.
One opponent, Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, said she would cast a “yes” vote under certain circumstances.
“I would be forced to vote for the lottery if a sufficiently high cigarette tax increase and an alcoholic beverage tax that went into the Mental Health Fund were included,” Ms. Kinnaird said.
Another lottery opponent, Sen. Janet Cowell, D-Wake, said she would have to take a look at the whole package if the lottery were combined with sin taxes, other tax reforms or included in the state budget.
“It’s a bigger deal to oppose the budget than a single item,” Ms. Cowell said.
The other three Democrats on record as opposing the lottery are Sens. Charlie Albertson of Duplin County, Dan Clodfelter of Mecklenburg County and Martin Nesbitt of Buncombe County.
A bill has been introduced that would raise the cigarette tax by 75 cents a pack. And Ms. Kinnaird said the tax increase would have to be close to that for her to consider supporting a package of taxes that also includes the lottery.
Rand said there often is a lot of “give and take” in legislation.
But he said that adding taxes to the lottery bill could hurt its chances as much as help.
“What Ellie said, that’s one out of 50,” Rand said. “If you do that, you might lose four the other way.”
Plus, Rand said, supporters in the Senate will have to realize that if they make any changes to the bill that passed the House, it would have to go back through that chamber again.
“We have to always be aware of the fact that we are a bicameral legislature,” Rand said.
During a press conference following the House lottery vote, Speaker Jim Black, D-Mecklenburg, made it clear that he hoped the Senate would not make any changes to the House bill so that he wouldn’t have to muster up the votes for it to pass in that chamber again.
The House version would require that half of all sales go to prizes, with administrative expenses limited to 16 percent of sales. The remaining 34 percent would go toward educational purposes, such as school construction, college scholarships for the needy and other educational programs.