North Carolina Senate lottery supporters early this morning threw away the last chance to bring games to the state this year.
Senate lawmakers worked to give final approval to a flurry of pending bills before adjourning for the year.
The absence of Republican Sens. Ham Horton and John Garwood, of Forsyth and Wilkes counties respectively, gave lottery supporters the two votes they needed to approve the measure.
But Senate President Marc Basnight, D-Dare, announced at 2 a.m. that the chamber would honor requests regarding absentee votes. Basnight also said the Senate would not vote on the lottery this year.
"We're not coming back," Basnight said. "We're finished."
Senate rules allow members of opposing sides to "pair" up on votes if members request a leave of absence. The move cancels out the vote. That means, for example, that Horton's "no" vote would be paired with a "yes" vote.
Neither vote would count, but it would still be on the record. It's an old parliamentary procedure that is also used in the U.S. Senate.
Horton did not ask for a leave of absence. Basnight requested one for him and neutralized the needed votes.
"We could have passed the lottery and it would have been within the rules," Basnight told reporters in a huddle on the Senate floor. "If you can't respect a member's request when he's not here…then the lottery is not worth that."
But the move might not have been as self-sacrificing as it appeared on the surface, said Deputy Republican Leader Tom Apodaca of Laurel Park.
"We told them that if they didn't honor our pairs, we wouldn't honor theirs and it wouldn't have done them any good," Apodaca said during a break.
Passage of the lottery was at a stalemate for months in the Senate. Democrats outnumber Republicans in the Senate, 29-21. But every Republican and five Democrats, including Sen. Martin Nesbitt of Asheville, opposed the lottery. Senate leaders failed to sway any votes.
House lawmakers approved a lottery in April. That keeps the bill alive for at least one more year.
"Recently, our (local) school leaders expressed their grave disappointment in the budget that passed the General Assembly," said Rep. Wilma Sherrill, R-Buncombe. "If we could have passed the lottery, then I believe those concerns would have been taken care of."