Under the Dome

House Democrats will choose leader this week

December 2, 2012 

The state House Democratic caucus will meet privately in the legislative building Wednesday to select a minority leader. Senate Democrats will meet for the same reason in mid-December.

Just who the new leaders will be is a matter of much speculation.

Rep. Larry Hall of Durham has been active in pursuing the role of House minority leader. He said much of the strategy he hopes to see hinges on whether Gov.-elect Pat McCrory acts as a moderate or gives in to far right elements of the Republican Party.

“There’s going to be a continuing tension,” Hall said. “We had it in our party when we had the governor and both bodies of the legislature. The budget is going to be the salient piece that really tells the story. Will the budget be basically what the legislature told him to send, or will it be something else that ends up being radically changed?”

Hall, a lawyer who has served 3½ terms, said he has been around long enough to realize that “until the votes are counted, you don’t have the votes,” but whoever is picked for leadership positions will lead efforts to find different ways to look at issues in the immediate legislative session and the long run.

Finding alternative takes to Republicans and past positions of Democrats on issues like charter schools, the structure of the university system, business incentives and so on will likely be key, Hall said.

Rep. Deborah Ross of Raleigh once expressed interest in the position but now says she is not running for minority leader. She said the goal for Democrats will center on a campaign to keep people informed of what’s going on.

“It’s very important to let the voters know what they’ve chosen and to hold legislators accountable for decisions they make,” Ross said.

Ross added that the diminished caucus realizes a concerted effort will be needed to make inroads in 2014 and beyond.

“It’s a team effort,” she said. “This isn’t something where you appoint one person and they do it on their own, and I think Larry Hall understands that. He understands the whole picture.”

Business owners say let tax cuts expire

A group of Raleigh small-business owners and others kicked off a letter-writing campaign Saturday to urge Congress to support tax cuts for the middle-class, but not the wealthy. The event, organized by the liberal Progress N.C., comes as Congress and the president try to compromise before the end of the year, when certain automatic spending cuts and tax increases will go into effect.

Saturday’s news conference included business owners Doug Leupen, the CEO of Entrinsik; Greg Hatem of Empire Properties; and Raleigh mayor pro tem Russ Stephenson. Experts from the N.C. Budget and Tax Center were also on hand.

The tax center on Saturday released a report saying that allowing the Bush tax cuts on incomes over $250,000 to expire would cause little harm to North Carolina’s small businesses and the economy in general. Only 2.5 percent of the small-business owners who file through the federal personal income tax code have incomes greater than $250,000 a year after capital investments and payroll and would be affected, the report says.

Allan Freyer, the report’s author, says his findings dispute concerns that small businesses would disproportionally pay for deficit reduction if the Bush cuts expire. The event was held at Entrinsik, a software company.

Wilson to retire

Robert Wilson, longtime assistant secretary of state and legislative liaison for the Secretary of State’s office, is retiring next month, the Insider reports.

Wilson has worked in the Secretary of State’s office since 1991. A 33-year veteran of state government, he also worked in the Department of Correction and community college system.

Staff writers Austin Baird, Craig Jarvis and John Frank

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