A group consisting of about 20 of North Carolina House’s more conservative members – the House Freedom Caucus – held a private meeting with leaders of both the House and Senate chambers on September 12th. The votes of the group may eventually be crucial to finding a solution to the budget drama that has been recently unfolding.
The negotiations regarding the proposed expansion of North Carolina’s legal gambling sector continued at closed doors at the statehouse yesterday afternoon. Unfortunately, it seems that, for the time being, there is still a lack of clarity on whether the language of the provision will be officially announced as part of the $30-billion state budget that may be given the green light by the state’s General Assembly by the end of the week. The provision’s language has not been made public so far, too.
It is exactly the gambling issue that has delayed the budget, which, reportedly, involves certain tax cuts and undisclosed state employees and teachers’ pay raises. Apart from these changes, the eagerly-awaited budget passage would allow the expansion of Medicaid, extending the local taxpayer-funded health insurance to a large number of North Carolina residents and representing a massive financial boost for the state’s hospital sector.
Proposed Gambling Measure Has to Be Supported by at Least 50% of House Republicans to Go Further
North Carolina’s leadership has been willing to make four new casinos legal, and to also authorize statewide legalization for slot machine-like terminals, which are also known as video poker terminals. According to market experts, the inclusion of the proposed gambling expansion in the state’s budget would allow local lawmakers to avoid single-issue votes on so-called stand-alone gambling draft measures.
As mentioned above, the House Freedom Caucus met with top leaders in both the NC Senate and House. So far, the Caucus members refused to provide information on how they might vote after a meeting first took place in the office of House Speaker Tim Moore, and then another meeting held with Phil Berger, the leader of State Republicans. Still, it is a well-known fact that Republican leaders have been finding it hard to persuade more conservative lawmakers to accept the proposed deal.
As Berger himself confirmed, his meeting with the Caucus lasted an hour and he was answering some questions about the proposed measure. The State Republicans’ leader is known for being one of the strongest supporters of the state’s gambling expansion.
A closed-door meeting of the full House Republican Caucus was also held after the meeting with Mr. Berger. It took several hours and stretched into the evening. According to preliminary expectations, the meetings would provide the members of the House Freedom Caucus with some clarity on the proposals and a budget announcement might eventually follow.
So far, the gambling language of the legislative provision has not gotten the necessary support that would have allowed it to move forward in the budget. On the other hand, the budget proposal would make progress in case 61 of the 72 House Republicans backed it. Additionally, the proposed gambling changes could come to the House floor once they get the support of at least 50% of House Republicans.