Under the Dome

Dome: Lawmakers end an acrimonious session

September 15, 2011 

The General Assembly adjourned its special three-day session Wednesday having accomplished Republicans' main goal - putting a constitutional marriage amendment on the ballot - while failing to agree on other amendments that were expected to be uncontroversial.

In the House, the session ended in the kind of acrimony typical of this year's staggered long session. Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam, explaining a tweak made to the corporate tax law enacted earlier this year, couldn't resist answering the criticism that this week's session cost $150,000. This bill alone, he claimed, would by "one-hundred-fold over pay for the cost of this session."

That brought Minority Leader Joe Hackney to his feet. "This session is indeed one of the biggest wastes ever to the North Carolina legislature," Hackney said. "There has been nothing of substance accomplished except to put North Carolina in a negative light, and it should not have been held."

Still, the bill, which comprised a hodgepodge of technical court-related issues, was passed unanimously in the House and Senate. A similar hodgepodge bill - the official term is "omnibus" - was passed largely along party lines after its anticipated bipartisan support dissolved.

The House and Senate couldn't agree on how long to allow the speaker of the House and the president pro tem of the Senate to serve, but current top dog Sen. Phil Berger said he was confident the differences will be resolved. Berger later issued a press release proposing a two-term limit, or four years, as long as the governor also is restricted to one four-year term.

The General Assembly adjourned to Nov. 7, when it could take up limited matters, including redistricting, veto overrides, appointments, hurricane relief and the governor's negotiations with the Cherokees to expand gambling at their casino.

Crawford gets reward

Rep. Jim Crawford, one of the five House Democrats who broke party ranks to help Republicans override Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue's budget veto this summer, has been given a plum assignment: chairman of the powerful appropriations committee.

House Speaker Thom Tillis announced at the close of the special session that the 14-term representative from Oxford and Rep. Nelson Dollar, a Cary Republican, would join Rep. Harold Brubaker, an Asheboro Republican, as co-chairs of the committee.

Rep. Marilyn Avila, a Raleigh Republican, was named chairwoman of the Appropriations Health and Human Services subcommittee.

Crawford was key in the House mustering enough votes to override Perdue's veto in June. He also crossed party lines on other votes.

The reshuffling comes as a result of vacancies left by the resignations of Reps. Jonathan Rhyne, a Lincolnton Republican, and Jeff Barnhart, a Cabarrus County Republican.

Oh no they didn't

In Wednesday's N&O, Tami Fitzgerald of the N.C. Values Coalition cited a study by the American Legislative Exchange Council ranking the economic health of the 50 states. She said ALEC found nine of the top 10 states have constitutional amendments defining marriage, and the bottom 10 have laws that "undermine marriage."

Not so, says the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Its "Rich States, Poor States" report focuses only on fiscal policy, not social issues. ALEC doesn't have a position on marriage policies, says Kaitlyn Buss of ALEC.

Staff writer Craig Jarvis

craig.jarvis@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4576

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