Under the Dome

Dome: Lobbyists' gifts could shower down on lawmakers once again

From staff reportsApril 12, 2013 

Lobbyists would once again be able to give freely to lawmakers and not disclose it under a bill filed this week by Rep. Robert Brawley, R-Iredell.

The legislation, HB 640, relaxes many of the ethics requirements passed in the wake of the Jim Black scandal. Black, who was Speaker of the House from 1999 to 2006, served time in prison for accepting illegal campaign contributions.

Brawley, who is chairman of the House Finance Committee, said he didn’t think a ban on gifts from lobbyists was needed.

“I see people with integrity and honesty around here,” he said Wednesday. “Jim Black was convicted of laws that were already on the books.

“I have faith in the majority of people being honest. Yes, I recognize that there are rotten apples, but I don’t pass laws to treat everybody like a rotten apple. And that’s what I think those ethics rules do.”

But Jane Pinsky, director for the N.C. Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform, said the current system is working well now.

“People like the clear bright line that legislators can’t receive gifts,” she said.

To be clear, Brawley said he thinks it’s unethical to exchange things for legislation, adding, “I also think it’s unethical to say ‘You vote for my bill, and I’ll vote for yours.’ ”

When Dome suggested that might be a regular occurrence on Jones Street, he replied: “I don’t know that it does, but I’m not going to pass a law against it.”

Honoring nature in Capitol

Just when you think state lawmakers are all business, a group of Republican lawmakers files a bill to designate a state fossil, frog, salamander, marsupial and folk art.

Primary sponsors include Reps. Marilyn Avila, Susan Martin, Pat McElfraft and Roger West.

The bill would make the state fossil the teeth of a megalodon shark; the state frog a pine barrens tree frog ( Hyla andersonii, for you science geeks); the state salamander the marbled salamander ( Ambystoma opacum); the state folk art Vollis Simpson’s whirligigs; and the state marsupial the Virginia opossum ( Didelphis virginiana). Dome assumes there is no Carolina opossum.

A feel-good meeting

The Legislative Building got real quiet late Thursday morning. Like Friday morning quiet.

Between the House and Senate sessions, most legislative Republicans headed over to the new state science museum for a joint caucus meeting where they heard from nationally-known political wordsmith and Republican strategist Frank Luntz.

Rep. Edgar Starnes, House majority leader, said the point of the meeting was “to make everybody feel good.”

Rep. Ruth Samuelson, House Republican conference leader, said the session was about communicating more effectively with constituents.

Luntz is credited with coining the term “death tax,” referring to the estate tax. His website says he “showed that parents don’t debate ‘school vouchers,’ but they do discuss ‘opportunity scholarships.’ And that Americans don’t want ‘drilling for oil,’ but they do want ‘American energy exploration.’ ”

Graham named ‘favorite son’

The Rev. Billy Graham was honored as North Carolina’s “favorite son” Wednesday by the General Assembly.

The House and Senate each passed resolutions honoring the 94-year-old Graham and his late wife, Ruth.

Their children, Franklin and Anne Graham Lotz, joined other family members and Gov. Pat McCrory in watching each chamber pay tribute to the senior Grahams for a lifetime of ministry.

Staff writers John Frank, Mary Cornatzer, Lynn Bonner and Charlotte Observer staff writer Jim Morrill

Send tips to dome@newsobserver.com.

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service