As Gov. Mike Easley signed the bill that will bring a state lottery to North Carolina yesterday, some senators weren't impressed.
Sen. Charlie Albertson, who represents Sampson County and was one of only five Democratic senators opposed to the lottery, said he was disappointed in the vote. Harnett County's Sen. Harris Blake blasted the backroom machinations that saw the bill pass the Senate with two of its Republican opponents absent.
"All the things that went on in order to get that vote I thought was very inappropriate and I said it on the Senate floor," Sen. Blake said. "We've been doing it like that for 140 years. We need to decide one day that this way of doing business has played its way. It's one of the reasons people are so suspect of the process. Until we make some major changes in that I think it's going to maybe always be that way."
Sen. Blake said he didn't know how that would come about, but said he would make his voice heard.
"There were not battles won at this point on this issue but the issue has certainly been surfaced, I believe," he said.
Sen. Albertson said he was always opposed to the lottery.
"I've been opposed to it ever since I've been in the legislature, but it looks like we are going to become a me-too state as far as the lottery is concerned," Sen. Albertson said.
Sen. Albertson said the razor-thin vote, which was 24-24 until the tie was broken by Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, reflects the large numbers of North Carolinians who were opposed to the lottery.
"I do think the close vote is an indication of how people feel about gambling in this state," Sen. Albertson said.
The vote passed because two Republican Senators who had opposed the lottery were unavailable for Tuesday's session, which was announced Friday after senators had been told no new business would be conducted until next May. Sen. Harry Brown was on a belated honeymoon and couldn't be reached, and John Garwood was in hospital with a leg infection.
Paired Vote Fell Through
Sen. Blake said as of Tuesday morning, Sen. Garwood had agreed to pair his vote with a Democratic lottery supporter, a procedure that would cancel out both votes and leave the opposition majority intact.
However, that changed sometime Tuesday morning.
"There were a lot of people trying to persuade him to do that," Sen. Blake said.
"I assume that the leadership were part of the process that helped him to decide to do what he did. I'm not going to second-guess what he did, but I am saying the way we did it was certainly not very pleasant."
Gov. Mike Easley has pushed for a state lottery since 2001, saying it will raise much-needed revenue for public schools. But Sen. Albertson said he does not think a lottery will be as beneficial for schools as some politicians say.
"I think we will see that it will not be the panacea that some think it will be," he said.
Sen. Albertson said a lottery may even hurt education funding.
"It may cause us to have more difficulty in passing school bonds. I suspect there will be a group of people who think that because we have a lottery, we don't need more revenue for school construction," Sen. Albertson said.
Sen. Albertson said with gas prices rising higher and higher, people won't have as much disposable income to spend on the lottery.
"We will have to deal with it the best way we can. I hate to see it, but that's where we are," Sen. Albertson said. "I felt like I did what was best for the people in this state and I'm not sorry for how I voted."
Sen. Blake said he's concerned at the moral decisions the Senate has made this year, citing a vote on increasing alcohol levels in beer and a disagreement over religious symbols in the Senate Chapel.
"Certainly if you look at it from a moral point of view we're moving pretty fast from what I am convinced our whole culture was built on," he said. "People say everybody else does it — my folks told me it didn't matter what the other folks did, I wasn't going to do it. That's pretty good teaching."