Blake Introduces Lottery Legislation
The first proposal made little progress last year when the lottery movement was picking up speed in both chambers of the General Assembly. Legislators voted to implement the lottery late in the 2005 session, too late for the lottery trust fund measure to be approved.
Blake thinks it has a good chance this time, since the lottery is now in effect.
If it passes, the bill calls for a statewide referendum on a constitutional amendment that would be on the ballot in November.
Also in a telephone interview, Blake said the resolution opposing involuntary annexation is an issue for the county commissioners. He has not been approached by anyone seeking local legislation to exempt Moore County from the state law governing annexation by municipalities.
"First of all, it's a commissioners' decision, and I'm certainly not involved in that," Blake said.
Blake said the resolution represents the commissioners' stand on the issue and it does not carry any legal authority.
He was referring to a resolution adopted on a 3-2 vote by the Moore County Board of Commissioners at a May 15 meeting. The resolution calls for a study of annexation and its effect on the county's tax structure but also expresses opposition to involuntary annexations. The resolution apparently was prompted by opposition of Pinewild residents to Pinehurst annexation efforts.
"I hope this can be worked out locally," he said. "It should be worked out amicably."
Blake, a Pinehurst Republican, said he has not taken a position on the issue which appears to be dividing Moore County residents not along party lines, but along town versus county lines.
As far as the legislature is concerned, Blake said more attention is being directed toward the issue of eminent domain. One bill that would restrict government power to exercise the right of eminent domain has already been introduced.
This bill is aimed at preventing governments from condemning private property for conversion into private commercial use. A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling permitted such an act of condemnation under the eminent domain right, and the decision has caused a storm of negative reaction across the country.
"The towns and villages of North Carolina are well represented up here," Blake said of the General Assembly.
His most serious interest right now is moving his lottery trust fund bill through the Senate and on to action by the House.
The bill, SB 1403, titled Trust Fund for Essential Services, has been assigned to the Appropriations Committee.
Blake opposes a state lottery and voted against the measure. However, he calls the reserve fund a means of forcing the state to save money for future needs.
"As long as I'm up here, I'm going to keep the issue on the table," Blake said of the lottery reserve fund.
Under his bill, 5 percent, or $15 million, of the lottery's net proceeds would be deposited in the trust fund, which could not be touched before Jan. 1, 2057, at which time the legislature could not appropriate more than one-half the annual interest. To do so, it would take a two-thirds vote in each house of the legislature.
The bill calls for the 5 percent, or $15 million (the smaller of the two), to be transferred to an interest-bearing account with the state treasurer acting as custodian. The reserve fund would be capped at $50 million.
Once the state can draw from this lottery savings account, the money would be designated for miscellaneous education purposes, such as class size reduction, school construction, college scholarships for the needy and related programs.
Blake said residents in his district like the proposal.
"Everybody thinks it's a great idea in the district," he said. "Now up here, it may be different."
His concern, in establishing the fund as a constitutional amendment, is to prevent the legislature and the governor from raiding the fund every time there is a fiscal crisis. This happened in connection with the state highway trust fund a few years ago.
"It's a neat idea," Blake said. "It has merit."
Thirteen fellow senators signed the bill as co-sponsors.
Florence Gilkeson can be reached at 947-4962 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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