Under the Dome

Lawmaker changes course on lottery secrecy bill

Negotiations have taken a turn on a state House bill to shield the identities of lottery winners.

Rep. Craig Horn, a Union County Republican generally opposed to the concept, said he’s no longer looking for a way to make House Bill 30 palatable to people who worry lottery secrecy is an affront to government transparency.

That’s because he’s among them, and while last week he informed the bill’s sponsor – Rep. Darren Jackson, a Raleigh Democrat – that he was pondering a possible amendment to the bill to keep some degree of transparency alive, he’s changed his mind.

“Let’s just vote the bill down,” Horn said.

A legislative committee was set to consider the bill Wednesday, but Jackson asked that it be pulled because he couldn’t attend. It may resurface when the committee, Judiciary III, reconvenes next Wednesday, said Chairwoman Rep. Sarah Stevens, a Mt. Airy Republican.

Despite criticism that the bill cloaks what should be public record, Jackson argues it’s necessary for lottery winners’ safety.

The stakes are dangerously high, he said, as lottery winners’ names, city or county of residence and jackpot amount are all open information. State law shields it for especially sensitive cases, such as with domestic violence victims who have valid protective orders.

But with most winners’ basic information handy, amateur detective work can turn up more detailed info about them, Jackson said.

Jackson’s father won a $1 million Powerball jackpot several years ago.

Horn was initially suggesting a change that would keep winners public unless they opt out, in which case they would have to provide the state a substantial reason.

But with his change of mind, “I think the battle lines are drawn on this one,” observed John Bussian, a First Amendment attorney representing the N.C. Press Association, which also opposes Jackson’s bill.

The state lottery opposes the bill, as well.

As written currently, it would keep lottery winner identities confidential unless they want to go public.

Reached by phone Wednesday afternoon, Jackson said he’ll keep pushing his bill as written.