Under the Dome

Incoming speaker Tillis lines up his staff

STAFF WRITERSJanuary 17, 2011 

House-Speaker designate Thom Tillis has been hiring his new staff. He said the budget for his staff would be 15 percent to 18 percent less than that of his predecessor, Democrat House Speaker Joe Hackney.

Former state Rep. Charles Thomas of Asheville will serve as chief of staff. Thomas served one term in the legislature and was Tillis' seatmate. He served 10 years in the Army, and now he is a financial adviser. He has a degree in government from Wofford College in South Carolina. He will be paid $120,000 annually.

Former state Rep. Bill Daughtridge of Rocky Mount will be a senior adviser. He was first elected in 2002 and served three terms. Daughtridge, the president of an oil distributing business, was the GOP nominee for state treasurer in 2008. He is a former Morehead Scholar at UNC-Chapel Hill.

A policy adviser will be Chris Hayes, a senior legislative analyst with the Civitas Institute, a Raleigh conservative think tank. Hayes is a graduate of UNC-CH with an MBA from Campbell University.

Amy Hobbs, who served as assistant vice president of state government relations at the McGuireWoods law firm, will join the speaker's staff as a policy adviser. Hayes and Hobbs will make $70,000 each.

Jason Kay will join the staff as general counsel. Kay, a senior staff attorney at the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law, teaches two courses at UNC-CH School of Law. He received a law degree and a master's degree in public administration from UNC-CH. His pay will be $110,000.

Dodie Renfer, the former political director for the state Republican Party, will serve as director of member relations. Renfer received a master's degree in political management from George Washington University.

Jordan Shaw, who served as communications director for the state Republican Party, will assume the same role for the speaker. He is a graduate of Virginia Tech. Renfer and Shaw will each be paid $60,000.

Maybe keep ABC system

Republicans are generally pro-privatization, but a couple of their key decision-makers aren't so sure about selling the ABC system.

The state is considering getting out of the liquor business, in which a state commission operates a warehouse and liquor is sold from local government stores. The move to sell the operations is triggered by the state's need to raise money and by county ABC board scandals.

Those who want the state to retain control argue that liquor revenue is among the highest in the country, while per capita consumption is low. The ABC system turns over millions of dollars to the state and local governments each year.

House Majority Leader Paul Stam, who is rarely ambivalent about anything, said he hasn't drawn any conclusions on selling the system.

"I feel very strongly on both sides," he said.

State Sen. Neal Hunt, a future budget writer, said selling the system would be a "one-time fix," raising money in one year while losing out on future revenue.

"When you've got something that's working well, why change it?" he asked.

Foxx is NRCC vice chair

North Carolina will retain representation among the leadership of the U.S. House GOP political organization in the coming Congress.

U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx of Banner Elk will become vice chairwoman for grass-roots development for the National Republican Congressional Committee, the group announced.

The NRCC is the main political arm for House GOP lawmakers - recruiting candidates and supporters, organizing fundraisers, and providing in-kind and financial assistance to campaigns.

rob.christensen@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4532

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