Under the Dome

Tillis reaches into sophomore class for key committee chairs

December 19, 2012 

House Speaker Thom Tillis on Wednesday announced his choices to lead key committees, elevating several second-term representatives to prominent positions.

Rep. Tom Murry, a Cary Republican, will chair the Commerce and Job Development committee. It’s only Murry’s second term, but he was an active figure among the freshman class last session and has been a proven fundraiser.

A pharmacist and an attorney, Murry was ranked “most effective freshman legislator” by the nonpartisan N.C. Center for Public Policy Research.

A new committee on regulatory reform will be chaired by Rep. Tim Moffitt, a Republican from Asheville, who is also beginning his second term.

The Health and Human Services Committee will be co-chaired by Rep. Mark Hollo, a Republican from Alexander County who is a physician assistant, and Rep. Bert Jones, a Republican from Rockingham who is a dentist. Both are second-termers.

Veteran lawmakers are not being overlooked: The House Judiciary Committee will be led by Rep. Leo Daughtry, a Republican lawyer from Smithfield, who will begin his 11th term in the House. The three subcommittee chairmen will be: Rep. John Blust, a Republican from Guilford County; Rep. Jonathan Jordan, a Republican from Ashe County and Rep. Chuck McGrady, a Republican from Henderson County, will be co-chairs; and Rep. Sarah Stevens, a Republican from Surry County.

Rep. Linda Johnson, a Republican from Cabarrus County, and Rep. J.H. Langdon, a Republican from Johnston County, will chair the House Education Committee. Langdon is a retired educator, and Johnson is a computer analyst.

State’s top pro-gun group pushes law to arm teachers

The state’s main pro-gun group, Grass Roots North Carolina, says it will push for a law arming teachers. The organization says as soon as the General Assembly convenes next month it will seek legislation that would allow teachers and others with concealed handgun permits to pack heat in the classroom.

In a news release president Paul Valone sent out announcing the plan, he uses the oft-cited retort to gun control that gun-free school zones are contributing to school killings. He cites several statistics to support that contention, and concludes with researcher John R. Lott’s finding that, with the exception of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ attack, “every public shooting since at least 1950 in the U.S. in which more than three people have been killed has taken place where citizens are not allowed to carry guns.”

The Washington Post’s fact-checker Glenn Kessler wrote on Tuesday: “But Lott’s conclusions are controversial – and other academics have criticized his work as either simplistic or subject to empirical errors.”

A 2004 report by a committee of the National Research Council of the National Academies concluded no link between right-to-carry laws and changes in crime can be determined.

At-will employment, stagnation of wages worry union backers

What will be the results of the relationship between public unions, Gov.-elect Pat McCrory’s administration and Republican legislative majorities?

About a dozen public union supporters gathered outside the General Assembly building in downtown Raleigh on Wednesday to voice concerns to media about policy changes that may result from that relationship and to renew talking points about familiar points of contention over labor issues.

Angaza Laughinghouse, president of the local N.C. Public Service Workers Union, told reporters that labor advocates “gathered here to stand up for our workers” and that the group expects a fight on several fronts during the upcoming legislative session.

In particular, Laughinghouse said he is concerned about the potential policies that would make public workers become at-will employees. That would place state employees in a situation familiar to many of their private sector counterparts – they could be fired for good cause, bad cause or no cause at all.

He said it would have an immensely negative impact, in part because it would facilitate layoffs during a time of high unemployment.

Other concerns raised are the longstanding stagnation of wages for state workers that have not accounted for inflation over the past few years and recent international criticism of a lack of collective bargaining rights for public workers in North Carolina.

Harry Payne, counsel for the N.C. Justice Center, said three “myths” have perpetuated about public employees: that most have exorbitant salaries, that there are enough to fire without a noticeable impact, and that they will easily assimilate and find another job in the private sector.

Payne said the result is understaffed, ineffective government that can be seen in long lines and seemingly endless phone trees.

“It’s not the fault of people not working hard,” he said. “It’s just that there aren’t enough people.”

Staff writers Craig Jarvis and Austin Baird

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