Family North Carolina MagazineMay/June 2009
by NCFPC Staff
In a three-to-three split decision filed March 30, the North Carolina Supreme Court allowed the State Lottery to continue to operate in North Carolina. Justice Mark Martin, a potential tie-breaking vote, recused himself and did not participate in the case. The court’s action brings an end to a three-year legal battle challenging the controversial manner in which the North Carolina General Assembly enacted the lottery in 2005.
Plaintiffs in the case, including the North Carolina Family Policy Council, argued that the Lottery Act constitutes a tax and should have received greater scrutiny by the General Assembly. The North Carolina Constitution requires that “revenue bills” receive two separate votes on two separate days in both chambers of the legislature, and that those votes must be recorded in the House and Senate Journals. Neither party to the action disputed the fact that the House and Senate took both required votes on the lottery on the same day and that the second vote was conducted by voice, and therefore, the “ayes” and “nays” on the “third reading” were not recorded in the respective chambers’ Journals.
What was contested, however, is whether or not the lottery represents a tax. Typically, when a state collects money from its citizens and uses those funds to pay for a broad public purpose not directly related to the collection of the money, it is considered a tax. For example, when the state collects money in relation to the purchase of goods and then uses those dollars to fund a variety of public programs and services unrelated to the collection of those funds, we call it sales tax. If the state, however, implements toll roads and the tolls that are collected from those who travel upon it are used to build and maintain the toll road, that is considered a fee and not a tax.
Approximately one-third of every dollar spent on the lottery is earmarked to fund education programs and services in North Carolina. The lottery has absolutely nothing to do with education. Those who purchase lottery tickets may never participate directly in the public school system, while those who never play the lottery may send their children to public schools that are funded in part by the lottery. In short, the 30 percent of every lottery ticket that is directed to public education is an embedded tax collected by the state for a broad public purpose.
The state based much of its argument on the notion that the purchase of a lottery ticket is voluntary and thus the lottery is not a tax. This is false reasoning. While the purchase of a lottery ticket may be voluntary, the payment of the tax is not. The same is true with consumer goods, cigarettes, gas, alcohol, etc. Citizens have the choice of whether or not to purchase these goods, but if they do, they have no choice but to pay the tax. In the case of the lottery, the tax is simply imbedded in the cost of the lottery ticket.
NCFPC Releases Marriage Poll
On March 31 at a press conference at the Legislative Building in Raleigh, the North Carolina Family Policy Council announced the results of a statewide survey of registered voters, which found that 73 percent of North Carolinians support an amendment to the State Constitution defining marriage as only between one man and one woman. The results of the poll, which was commissioned by the North Carolina Family Policy Council, were announced at a press conference at the General Assembly.
The live caller poll was conducted by the Virginia-based Advantage Incorporated and involved a telephone survey of 5,009 registered voters in North Carolina. Of those, 45 percent were registered Democrats, 37 percent were registered Republicans, and 18 percent had no party affiliation or described themselves as “other.” Researchers did not share the status of current state law with respondents.
“We commissioned this survey, first of all, because we wanted to determine the level of support for the Marriage Protection Amendment among registered voters in North Carolina,” said Bill Brooks, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council. “The results confirm what previous polls have shown, which is that the overwhelming majority of North Carolinians would vote in favor of a Marriage Protection Amendment if given that chance by our lawmakers.”
When voters were asked if they would be likely to vote on a ballot initiative that places the definition of marriage as “the union of one man and one woman” into North Carolina’s constitution, 73 percent said they would be likely to support such an amendment, while 17 percent said they would be unlikely to support the amendment. Another 10 percent said they were not sure of their position.
The poll was broken down by legislative district, with the total number of registered voters who were polled (5,009) representing .08 percent of registered voters in the State. In every Senate District, a majority of likely voters said they would be likely to support a Marriage Protection Amendment, and in every House District except five, a majority of likely voters said they would be likely to support the Amendment. House Speaker Joe Hackney’s district polled at 57 percent of the likely voters who would support the Marriage Protection Amendment, while Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Basnight’s district polled at 72 percent of the likely voters who would support the Amendment.
“Our poll is unique in that it is a large enough sample to give valid results by legislative district,” said Brooks. “The results show that the majority of voters in every Senate district and nearly every House district support the Marriage Protection Amendment.”
Previously, Elon University released a poll that purported to show that North Carolinians are split on the issue of the Marriage Protection Amendment. However, Brooks noted that the Elon poll phrased the survey questions about the amendment in a negative manner.
“Unlike the Elon University poll, this poll asked registered voters a positively phrased question about the Marriage Protection Amendmentspecifically whether or not they would vote for an amendment that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman,” Brooks said. “Our findings confirm that when voters are asked if they support preserving the definition of marriage as one man and one woman, they overwhelmingly say yes. That’s because the Marriage Protection Amendment is not about banning anything. It is about preserving marriage in North Carolina for future generations.”
The poll’s findings are nearly identical to a survey released in February by the John W. Pope Civitas Institute, which found that 76 percent of voters in the state support a Marriage Protection Amendment. Brooks surmised, “If you assume that one-half of the 10 percent of undecided voters in our poll would eventually vote for a Marriage Protection Amendment, then the overall percentage goes up to 78 percent in favor.”
The NCFPC poll also questioned respondents about how likely they would be to vote for legislative candidates who support a Marriage Protection Amendment. According to the results, 71 percent of voters said they would be more likely to vote for a legislative candidate who supports a Marriage Protection Amendment, while 17 percent said they would be unlikely to vote for a candidate who was supportive of the amendment. Eleven percent were undecided.
“The results confirm what previous polls have shown, which is that there is overwhelming support among voters for lawmakers who are willing to take a stand for traditional marriage,” said Brooks. “North Carolina legislators have nothing to fear politically by supporting the Marriage Protection Amendment, and in fact have much to gain.”
Voters were also questioned on whether or not homosexuality should be taught in public schools as a normal and acceptable behavior. The overwhelming majority, or 84 percent, said they were opposed to the teaching of homosexuality as an acceptable and normal behavior in North Carolina’s public schools, while 16 percent said they were in favor of such teaching.
“At least two bills that would promote the normalization of homosexuality in school, and ultimately undermine marriage in our state, have been introduced in the General Assembly this year,” said Brooks. “These findings show that by overwhelming margins, voters in North Carolina do not support the promotion of homosexuality in the classroom, and we think legislators should take note of that as they debate and vote on these important issues.”
Brooks noted that legislation that would give the people of North Carolina the opportunity to vote on a Marriage Protection Amendment has been introduced in the State House and Senate for the past six years, including this session. As in previous years, the “Defense of Marriage” bills, as they are known, have been referred to committees, where they will languish unless they are allowed to come up for a vote. The General Assembly is the only avenue in North Carolina, short of a Constitutional Convention, to place the proposed amendment before the people for a vote.
“Polls of registered voters, including the survey we are releasing today, show there is overwhelming support for a Marriage Protection Amendment in North Carolina, and we know the votes are there to support these bills in the General Assembly,” Brooks said. “It is time for our legislative leaders to listen to the voice of the people of North Carolina, whom they represent, and allow the ‘Defense of Marriage’ bills to get an up or down vote.”
Copyright © 2009. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.