North Carolina State Sen. Andrew Brock, R-Davie, continues his strong opposition to a statewide lottery while pushing a proposal to move the start of the public school year to after Labor Day.
The revenues saved in not having to air-condition schools in August and the extra tourism dollars generated in North Carolina during those same weeks would equal or exceed the proceeds from a lottery, Brock said.
Brock said he doesn't trust any politician who says lottery proceeds will go to education. A lottery's potential revenues are nothing, he added, relative to the waste in state government and the potential for increasing revenues through ideas such as moving the start of school.
Brock estimated he received more calls on the school-after-Labor-Day proposal than any other issue in his first year as a state senator. The proposal died in the legislature without ever coming to a vote, Brock said, because each local school board is now allowed to set up its own school calendar.
There would have been too many exceptions.
Many school systems, including the Rowan-Salisbury School System, begin school in early August so they can finish their block-scheduled classes before Christmas break.
Brock, who visited with the Rowan Republican Men's Club Thursday evening, said he agrees with religious conservatives who see a lottery as government-sponsored gambling and oppose it on moral grounds.
But Brock said he also agrees with liberal opponents who warn that a lottery preys on the poor and business leaders who claim a lottery takes money out of the economy and sends it directly to government.
Brock would oppose any effort to put the lottery question to a statewide referendum. He contends that such a referendum would be nothing more than an expensive poll -- a non-binding vote likely to be challenged in court.
"The lottery is not going to solve the education problem in North Carolina," Brock said. His conviction against a lottery grew stronger in his first term in the Senate because he saw fiscal research showing how bloated state government is and how many services are duplicated.
Club members Max Kent and Art Steinberg pressed Brock on the lottery issue Thursday evening.
The men pointed to its success in helping education in Georgia. They said North Carolina is losing millions of dollars to Virginia and South Carolina, which have lotteries.
Kent asked how lottery opponents separate playing the stock market and playing the lottery on moral grounds -- both are gambles, he said.
Brock had an dventful first year in the Senate but one that often proved frustrating as he confronted the Democratic majority in that chamber, led by Sen. Marc Basnight, D-Dare. Brock said Basnight controls the Senate "with an iron fist" and sends a disproportionate share of state tax dollars to eastern North Carolina.
During the past session, Brock said, he attempted to quash pork-barrel spending, lower tax rates, send more money directly to classrooms, cut red tape for teachers and small businessmen, reduce the number of illegal aliens, provide more money for prescription drugs and address government waste.
Too many state agencies purposely ask for funding of positions they never fill, so that those funds can be spent elsewhere in the department, he complained. If anything, the money for those unfilled positions should go to the state's Rainy Day Fund, he said.
"We pay for ghosts," he added.
Brock also voted against a moratorium on the death penalty and sponsored legislation tying the expiration of an alien's N.C. driver's license with the expiration of his or her visa.
North Carolina is the easiest state for an alien to obtain a driver's license, which makes it easier for illegal aliens to stay here, Brock said, emphasizing the word "illegal."
Brock sponsored legislation aimed at reducing a teacher's workload in connection with student portfolios, which he described as bureaucratic nightmares for teachers. He complained that the N.C. Association of Educators never got behind the bill, which Gov. Mike Easley vetoed.
Brock received some criticism from Salisbury city officials for blocking an attempt by Rep. Lorene Coates, D-Rowan, to pass enabling legislation connected to the clear-cutting of trees.
Salisbury City Council wanted the enabling legislation so it could pass an ordinance requiring that certain buffers be left when a property owner goes into an area and clears it for development.
Brock objected to the process Coates followed in bypassing the House and attaching Salisbury to a local buffer bill of Wake County's in the Senate. He described it Thursday night as an effort to "sneak it in."
"I wasn't going to let that happen on my watch," he said.
Brock said the proper legislative procedure should be followed -- a local bill written specifically for Rowan County with the input of all parties.
Brock expects the Senate to return to Raleigh in mid September to take up tort reform, including malpractice insurance award limits, and job creation legislation.
Besides the Pillowtex layoffs in his district, Brock said R.J. Reynolds expects to lay off 2,500 workers, many of them his constituents in Yadkin and Davie counties.
"The people effects are not finished yet," he said.
In November, the General Assembly will take on redistricting of House and Senate seats again because of a court order. Brock recommends scheduling the redistricting debate as close to Thanksgiving as possible, giving legislators a reason to focus its discussion and go home quickly.
Brock says he has heard that Democrats may target him and try to fashion a district more favorable to candidates from their party. If that's true, it's a sign he's doing a good job in Raleigh against the Democratic leadership, he said.