Lottery deserves its own debate.

By: - April 15, 2005 6:34 am

During the Senate debate about lobbying reform this week, Senator after Senator talked about the need for openness in the legislative process, sunshine in government to reassure the public that their elected officials were doing their job.

The lobbying reform bill passed unanimously, but it’s not the last chance Senators will have to show the people they represent that they really do believe in open government. Another opportunity may come soon with the lottery the House passed last week.

There is speculation in the legislative halls that the Senate leadership may not allow an up or down vote on the lottery. That may be because 26 Senators, five Democrats and all 21 Republicans, are expected to oppose any form of a lottery, leaving the leadership a vote short.

Senate leaders reportedly are now considering combining the lottery in the same bill with proposals that some of the five Democrats support, raising the state cigarette tax, the tax on beer and wine, even closing some corporate tax loopholes.

That’s troubling enough, but the other scenario being discussed is worse, the lottery as part of the Senate budget, making it even harder for Democrats to vote against it. Lottery opponents would have to buck the Senate leadership even more dramatically, rejecting the state budget the leadership itself put together.

Either scenario flies in the face of open, honest government. The people of the state deserve to hear an open, thorough debate on the lottery and a vote on it alone, not tied to other taxes and certainly not part of the complex state budget.

The lottery is terrible public policy for a long list of reasons you have read here before, but even the most diehard lottery supporter ought to demand that the debate about it is fair and open. Senators voted unanimously for that openness this week. Let’s hope that commitment continues.

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Chris Fitzsimon

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina. [email protected] 919-861-2066