Under the Dome

Dome: Hunt, Holshouser say don’t mess with judicial elections

April 22, 2013 

Two former governors – Democrat Jim Hunt and Republican Jim Holshouser – are asking the legislature and the state’s Republican Gov. Pat McCrory not to mess with North Carolina’s judicial elections.

North Carolina was one of the first states in the country to adopt public financing of judicial elections and has been considered a model for other states.

But a bill in the Senate and McCrory’s proposed budget call for eliminating the program which 80 percent of judicial nominees voluntarily use. (Getting rid of the public financing of elections, by the way, was one of 11 action items the John Locke Foundation suggested for the first 100 days of the 2011 legislative session.)

But in a letter published in various newspapers around the region over the weekend, Hunt and Holshouser explained why such a move is a bad idea.

They write: “As former Republican and Democratic governors, we often disagree. But here’s one area where we agree: North Carolina’s courts must be protected from the corrosive influence of special-interest campaign money.”

They go on to say the program has been successful and note: ‘It frees judges from the endless money chase and prevents the appearance that justice is for sale.”

Hunt and Holshouser also are lending their support to a campaign to preserve public financing launched by NC Voters for Clean Elections and Justice at Stake. The dynamic duo appear in a video spot on a just-hatched website, www.judgesnotpoliticians.org.

Audit: IT projects overspent

State agencies spent more than double the projected cost for information technology projects that took more than a year longer to complete than original estimates, according to a state audit.

The Office of the State Auditor released a report Monday that determined the state spent $356.3 million more than expected on 84 IT projects during the Gov. Bev Perdue administration. It also found inadequate controls to monitor how much state agencies spend on various technology needs.

Chris Estes, the state’s new chief information officer, said his agency is making the necessary changes to prevent cost overruns and busted deadlines in the future. He said he would release a statewide IT plan Oct. 1 to address the concerns.

The audit reviewed IT projects from December 2011 to October 2012. Among the projects with the largest increase in cost: the Medicaid Management Information System, estimated at $93 million but with actual costs of $230 million, and the tax information management system, which cost nearly $30 million more than the projected $69 million cost.

The state audit took 2,472 hours to complete at a cost of $200,000.

Pastors call for action

The NAACP and a group of pastors Monday issued “a call to action” against the Republican legislature for what it said were a series of actions or proposals that would take North Carolina back to “the old South.”

In an open letter to Gov. Pat McCrory, Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis, the pastors cited a litany of bad policy decisions, such as declining to expand Medicaid, reducing unemployment benefits and ending tax credits for the working poor as well as proposals to restrict voting and cut public education.

The Rev. William Barber, state NAACP president, said the ministers were planning a series of efforts to focus a spotlight on the legislature, including a 15-county tour of key lawmaker’s districts, and a possible “pray-in” when the state House begins debate on a photo ID bill on Wednesday.

Barber listed peaceful civil disobedience as an option that opponents would discuss when the voter ID bill was considered on the floor, noting there was a long tradition in the civil rights movement of using one’s body to oppose repressive measures. But he also said it was just one option, and was careful to say no decision had been made.

A letter, signed by 14 clergy members, says in part, “we call on all people of good will to examine the tools of the non-violent moral movement to expose the hurtful, immoral, unconstitutional policies being discussed and passed in the Peoples House. These policies are similar to those by repressive regimes in other countries, who see their own citizens as part of the problem, rather than part of the solution.”

A group of pastors and religious lay leaders read portions of the letter at a news conference at the Legislative Building.

Staff writers Mary Cornatzer, John Frank and Rob Christensen

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