The debate on a bill to neuter the state lottery hinged on one question Wednesday as a House panel considered the measure. "Do you really think the people of North Carolina are dumb?" state Rep. Mickey Michaux asked the bill sponsor. "What you are trying to do here is regulate people's actions."
Michaux, a Durham Democrat, meant it as a serious question and Republican Paul "Skip" Stam said he considered it a good one. "It's variable," said Stam, a lead sponsor. "Even the smartest person given false information will act in a different way."
The measure -- dubbed "The Honest Lottery Act", or HB156 -- is aimed at limiting the N.C. Education Lottery's advertising and games, which the bill sponsors consider misleading. Stam agreed to remove a provision to change the lottery's name to the N.C. State Lottery because it would cost $6 million to rebrand.
Michaux also raised a question about preventing the lottery from citing the role of an accountant or auditor when advertising or making winning number announcements. "If you want to inform people, you ought to let them know there is somebody standing back there with an honest face," Michaux said.
Stam disagreed about the integrity of a lottery. "It's not on the up and up," he said earlier in the debate. "It's a scam."
The bill is making strange political bedfellows with Stam, the speaker pro tem and former GOP leader, signed on with House Democratic Leader Larry Hall and top Democrat Rep. Rick Glazier. At the hearing, Glazer explained he voted to establish the lottery years ago but has since "developed a concern about gambling in any form." He also lamented that state lawmakers from both parties are using the lottery to supplant state money for education, not supplement the funding.
The bill didn't get a vote in the House Judiciary subcommittee Wednesday to allow more revisions and comment at another meeting.