New NC Republican leaders want to limit term lengths for top positions at General Assembly
Health advocates, consumers try to build opposition to NC House GOP bill challenging reform
LEADER TERM LIMITS: The leaders of the newly elected Republican majority now have agreed to work to limit the lengths of control. House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, and Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, each have said they'll work to cap the number of years a person can serve in their respective positions, either through a constitutional amendment or easier change in state law. Some advocates of the idea say it's healthier for democracy to limit the time any one person can remain in a job and consolidate power. Outgoing Senate leader Marc Basnight, D-Dare, recently wrapped up a record 18 consecutive years as Senate president pro tempore. Others point to former House Speaker Jim Black, D-Mecklenburg, who served prison time after prosecutors presented evidence showing he gave GOP Rep. Michael Decker as much as $58,000 to switch political parties in 2003. The move helped Decker remain co-speaker.
HEALTH CARE STORIES: A doctor and a group of consumers joined with House Democrats to criticize a Republican bill in the General Assembly that seeks to sink the federal health care overhaul. Opponents of the GOP measure making its way through the House that challenges the 2010 law spoke at a Legislative Building news conference. The measure attempts to block a provision requiring people to buy insurance beginning in 2014 or pay a penalty. It also would direct Attorney General Roy Cooper to join a lawsuit to challenge the law. House Majority Leader Paul Stam, R-Wake, said he expected a floor debate on the bill Wednesday.
BELT TIGHTENING: Senate Republicans have rolled out a bill that would give Gov. Beverly Perdue more authority to reduce spending throughout state government to free up extra cash to help close an expected budget gap next year of more than $3.5 billion. The three Senate Appropriations Committee co-chairmen filed a bill that would authorize Perdue to reduce operating fund expenditures for the remainder of the fiscal year, with a goal of saving at least $400 million. Perdue already has ordered state savings in her Cabinet-level agencies but she lacks power to go further in agencies that operate beyond her direct control because there isn't an official budget emergency.
Bills filed in the House:
— H19, the proposed permanent House rules for the 2011-12 session. Sponsors: Reps. Stephen LaRoque, R-Lenoir, and Tim Moore, R-Cleveland.
Bills filed in the Senate:
— S16, to require law enforcement perform a blood test on any person criminally charged in any case involving a death by a vehicle. Sponsors: Sens. Doug Berger, D-Franklin, and Don East, R-Surry.
House committee chairmanships:
Agriculture: Reps. James Langdon, R-Johnston, and Efton Sager, R-Wayne.
Appropriations: Rep. Harold Brubaker, R-Randolph, senior chairman; Reps. Jeff Barnhart and Linda Johnson, R-Cabarrus; and Mitch Gillespie, R-McDowell.
Banking: Rep. Johnathan Rhyne, R-Lincoln.
Commerce and Job Development: Rep. Danny McComas, R-New Hanover.
Education: Reps. Bryan Holloway, R-Stokes.
Elections: Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett.
Environment: Reps. Pat McElraft, R-Carteret; Ruth Samuelson, R-Mecklenburg; and Roger West, R-Cherokee.
Ethics: Reps. Joe Hackney, D-Orange, and Julia Howard, R-Davie.
Finance: Rep. Julia Howard, R-Davie, senior chairwoman; Reps. Dale Folwell, R-Forsyth; Mitchel Setzer, R-Catawba; and Edgar Starnes, R-Caldwell.
Government: Reps. Larry Brown, R-Forsyth; and Dan Ingle, R-Alamance.
Health and Human Services: Reps. Bill Current, R-Gaston; Nelson Dollar, R-Wake; and Mark Hollo, R-Alexander.
Insurance: Rep. Jerry Dockham, R-Davidson.
Judiciary: Rep. Leo Daughtry, R-Johnston.
Military and Homeland Security: Reps. George Cleveland, R-Onslow, and Ric Killian, R-Mecklenburg.
Public Utilities: Rep. Fred Steen, R-Rowan.
Rules: Reps. Stephen LaRoque, R-Lenoir, and Tim Moore, R-Cleveland.
State Personnel: Rep. Bill McGee, R-Forsyth.
Transportation: Rep. Frank Iler, R-Brunswick, and Grey Mills, R-Iredell.
AROUND THE STATEHOUSE:
— The House and Senate held their first evening sessions of the year. Neither chamber took recorded votes. The Senate and House introduced bills and received a message from Gov. Beverly Perdue that she would renominate Joseph A. Smith Jr. to become North Carolina Commissioners of Banks. Smith announced last week he would end his bid to become the next head of the federal agency overseeing mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The House also introduced this week's pages.
ON THE AGENDA:
— The House and Senate appropriations committees hold a meeting at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday to hear from the Legislature's fiscal analysts, who will offer an overview of the state's budget and revenue sources.
— A news conference will be held at 9 a.m. Tuesday to discuss the introduction of the "Electoral Freedom Act of 2011," which would lower thresholds for the number of signatures by which a third party or an independent candidate can get on the ballot. The state's threshold for a third party is one of the highest in the country and is current the subject of a lawsuit being considered by the state Supreme Court.
"Ultimately this question is going to be decided by the courts and not by the General Assembly." — Adam Linker, policy analyst at the N.C. Justice Center's Health Access Coalition, at a news conference opposing a bill pushed by House GOP members that seeks to block implementation of the 2010 federal health care overhaul law.
By Gary D. Robertson.