North Carolina’s governor Pat McCrory has called for the legislature to return to Raleigh for a special session to deal with two bills he vetoed, one a discriminatory demand that some welfare applicants be tested for drugs and the other an immigration bill that he said would make it easier for farmers to hire illegal workers.

It’s not that McCrory really wants the legislature to come back and try to override his vetoes: he’s obligated to invite them to do so, though he’s on the record as hoping they’ll decline the special session and save the issues for when they reconvene next May.

They need to return, though, because they forgot something. In a blitzkrieg attack on any signs of progressivism, the legislature overturned years of Democratic educational and social advances in a single session, as if trying to undo everything the Democrats ever did.

But they forgot the lottery.

When the deceitfully-named “North Carolina Education Lottery” was first approved in 2005, it was pushed largely by Democrats, something I believed (and still believe) was a major mistake. Many Republicans decried the bill as immoral based on their conservative religious convictions, and religious moderates and liberals with a social conscience opposed it because it clearly targets the poor. 

The lottery is, on the face of it, a socially regressive, if voluntary, tax on poor and middle class citizens. It sells hope to profit the state, ostensibly to support education but in reality giving lawmakers the chance to cut other education funding and shift it to more favored programs.

So, while the Republican super-majority was busy dismantling the house that Democrats built, why did they leave the lottery standing tall?

Could it be that the allure of free money from poorer people — that makes it easier to cut taxes for the wealthy — has a stronger appeal than something like, say, religious conviction or social concern?

If the folks who currently run the show in Raleigh want anyone to believe there’s an ounce of religious reasoning behind their deconstruction of what previous administrations had done, they need to show a little consistency, and get North Carolina out of the gambling business.


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