Jim Black's political life is just about to get a lot more difficult. His legendary power and control of our state's legislature appears to be coming to an end. A NC Senate committee voted unanimously to ban video poker in North Carolina. Black has protected the industry in this state and according to an interview in The Charlotte Observer, he noticed this act of defiance.
Follow me to the flip side...
"Why else would you purposely eliminate ... jobs?" said Black, a Matthews Democrat, reiterating his contention that the video poker industry supports several thousand jobs in North Carolina.
The video poker industry also supports Jim Black and probably many other lawmakers in this state. I don't believe that there is anything wrong with this. I don't think there have necessarily been any laws broken. Legislators on the state and national level receive money from businesses through their PACs as a show of support when the legislator supports laws that benefit their particular industry. There is nothing wrong with it until an industry starts pumping money into campaigns right before or right after an important vote. (See Robin Hayes and CAFTA) There's nothing wrong with it until a legislator changes the way they would normally vote because of cash injections. (See Robin Hayes and CAFTA)
This isn't true of Jim Black. He's never had a problem with the video poker industry, so their financial support of him is in line with his beliefs and his actions. No influence there, right? Un-huh.
The bill goes to the Senate floor today, signaling the Democrat-led Senate's eagerness to prohibit the games after passing a ban four times since 2000 and watching it die in the House without a vote. As speaker, Black determines whether legislation makes it to the floor for a vote.
With all eyes trained on Jim Black, though, we now get a different response. He has said he will not block a vote this time.
But, don't look away folks. Take note of the legislators who have received contributions from the video poker industry in the past. Watch their financial filings with the State Board of Elections. Since there's never been a vote, we can't compare past votes. We can watch financial reports though.
How many Democrats will line up behind Black in this vote? How many will do so of their own free will? In today's climate in Raleigh it will be a clear indication of Speaker Black's future as speaker, if re-elected in November.
I don't play video poker. If the game is operated without being unfairly weighted for the player to lose, I don't really care how many people blow money playing it. I don't believe we can or should keep every single temptation away from people. Quite frankly, I think people should take responsibility for their own lives and their own actions.
This is why I'm keeping an eye on Jim Black. The video poker industry has had an unfair advantage in the legislature as Black prevented a fair vote on the floor of the NC House. Now, he will have to take responsibility for his actions and they may just come back to haunt him.