Decision will be today or Saturday as backers seek to sway 'no' voters
It apparently takes some cajoling to change one vote.
Backers of a North Carolina lottery spent Thursday trying to get a few senators to change their "no" votes to "yes."
Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight, a Dare Democrat and lottery supporter, said he will hold a vote today or Saturday and that his side is "a couple votes short."
He, other Senate leaders and staffers from Gov. Mike Easley's office could be seen chatting up Democratic lawmakers who say they'll vote against the lottery during breaks in Senate work Thursday.
"Everyone knows where they stand." Basnight said. "If the votes are there, we'll bring it up quickly."
One lawmaker who said he's voting "no," Sen. Charlie Albertson, D-Duplin, skipped a committee meeting he usually attends, spending at least some of that time in Basnight's office.
Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, another "no" vote, also missed most of the hourlong committee meeting.
She quipped with a reporter when asked whether Easley had called and asked for her vote. She replied:
"Do I ask who calls you?"
The pressure is on this year because it might be the best chance for lottery backers to get one approved. The state House approved a lottery for the first time after more than a decade of attempts. The Senate has approved a numbers game at least three times before, but changes in Senate membership have put passage in question this year.
All 21 Senate Republicans plan to vote against it, according to their party leaders.
"Our caucus is solid," said Sen. Eddie Goodall, a Charlotte Republican.
At least five Democrats — including Kinnaird and Albertson — have said publicly they'll oppose a lottery. The other declared "no" votes are Dan Clodfelter of Charlotte, Martin Nesbitt of Asheville and Janet Cowell of Raleigh.
(The three other senators from Mecklenburg say they'll vote with their party leaders, meaning Democrats Charlie Dannelly and Malcolm Graham will vote "yes" and Republican Robert Pittenger will vote "no.")
That means numbers game supporters have to change at least one vote to make it a 25-25 tie.
Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, a lottery supporter, would break any tie in favor of the lottery, which would provide additional funding for education.
Backers could also convince two lottery opponents to leave the room during the vote, leaving supporters with a majority of those who are left.
Nesbitt said the five Democratic opponents plan to stick together, but he's not counting out the supporters.
"People (sometimes) don't show up," he said. "Strange things happen."