The state Senate kicked off the short session of the North Carolina General Assembly with quick action on annexation and live gambling on the Cherokee Nation. A Senate committee approved two bills that would nullify annexations in nine areas of the state and change the way residents vote on annexations. The audience was packed with people who lived in those areas. They were all wearing red shirts protesting annexation.
The lawmakers thought they had solved the problem of involuntary annexations in the last session but cities involved took the matter to court and won a reprieve. The state is in the process of appealing the lower court ruling. The law in contention allowed land owners in target areas to gather enough signatures to block annexation. The cities claimed it was unconstitutional to only allow a voice for land owners and not everyone in the area and the court agreed.
The new proposals headed to the Senate floor would repeal all recent annexations and allow every registered voter in an area marked for annexation participate in the decision. Bill sponsor Sen. Buck Newton (R-Wilson) says that should satisfy the court and put an end to the long legal battle:
Another bill headed to the Senate floor would approve live gambling at Cherokee Nation casinos. Currently people only gamble on machines. Cherokee representatives and the Governor negotiated a new compact allowing the new games but it has to be passed by the General Assembly. If the legislation is approved the casinos would hire dealers for live games.
Sen. Martin Nesbitt (D-Buncombe) represents that area of the state and said the new agreement could mean 400 new jobs. He told the committee the casinos have already enhanced the economy of western North Carolina as well as the lives of members of the nation:
The state would get a cut of the revenue from the new 30 year compact. It would start at four percent and grow every five years. It could bring in as much as $90 million dollars over time.