Under the Dome

Dome: Tillis accused of letting Senate ambitions influence NC legislation

Staff writersApril 30, 2013 

In an unvarnished speech, Republican state Rep. Larry Pittman recently expressed doubts about the House speaker’s conservative credentials, saying Thom Tillis’ possible U.S. Senate bid is making it difficult to push legislation.

“I was proud to vote for Thom Tillis to be the speaker again, when we got back up there this year,” Pittman told a crowd in a video posted on YouTube. “Because last session, he was great. ... But, now he’s running for U.S. Senate, or planning to, things have changed.”

A Tillis spokesman said the claim is “inaccurate” and emphasized that the speaker has not made a decision about whether he would challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan in 2014.

Tillis, himself, said only: “I disagree with Rep. Pittman and that’s my only comment.”

(This article continues below the video. Advance the video to the 11-minute mark to view Pittman's comments.)

Pittman, a Concord lawmaker in his second term, said the speaker’s office pressured Rep. Carl Ford to drop a resolution he sponsored that asserted North Carolina’s right to establish its own religion.

The strong words are not likely to earn Pittman any friends in the House leadership. And he prefaced them with a warning: “I’m potentially getting myself in real trouble telling you this stuff. … It means probably none of my bills will go anywhere.”

Jordan Shaw, Tillis’ spokesman, said Pittman is not the only lawmaker whose legislation hasn’t received a hearing. He said two bills sponsored by the speaker have yet to get heard.

Jackson knows a winner

The state legislator who introduced a bill concealing the identity of lottery winners is kin to one of the lottery’s big-check recipients.

Rep. Darren Jackson’s father, Glenn Jackson, won a $1 million Powerball jackpot in 2007, the Wendell Democrat said Tuesday. Jackson said he took his dad’s Powerball experience into consideration when writing House Bill 516, which bars the N.C. Education Lottery from publicizing the name and hometown of lottery winners.

“He wasn’t a victim of a crime or break-ins or anything,” Jackson said. “But I remember he got calls from solicitors for months.”

Still, Jackson insists his family history had little to do with his decision to introduce the bill, which he has now asked committee chairs to table.

Jackson said several people called him this week with concerns about how his bill would affect agencies hoping to collect debts from lottery winners. By law, the N.C. Education Lottery is required to withhold winnings from those who win more than $600 and are listed in the N.C. Department of Revenue’s debt set-off program.

“I want to look at (the laws) again,” Jackson said. “I don’t think it will be heard this session.”

Finance bill heads to Senate

An industry-backed bill to revamp state regulations governing consumer finance companies was approved by voice vote in the Senate Commerce Committee Tuesday despite objections from consumer advocates. It now goes to the Senate.

The bill would raise the cap on consumer finance loans to $15,000 and increase the interest rates charged for most loans, which the industry argues is needed given the rising cost of living since the current regulatory scheme was put in place three decades ago.

Consumer advocacy groups argue that interest rates already are so high that borrowers get caught in a cycle of borrowing.

“Clearly the bill has strong support, but we’re going to do everything we can to stop this bill from passing,” said Al Ripley, director of the N.C. Justice Center’s consumer and housing project.

Staff writers John Frank, Paul A. Specht and David Ranii

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