Under the Dome

Dome: Congressional delegation split over offshore drilling

June 30, 2013 

North Carolina’s congressional delegation is largely split along partisan lines on a bill that would open up the North Carolina coast to offshore drilling.

The House passed The Offshore Energy and Jobs Act by a 235-186 on Friday and it will now go to the Senate. All the state’s Republicans as well as Democrat Mike McIntyre voted for the bill. All four Democrats voted against it.

The measure was supported by Republican Govs. Pat McCrory of North Carolina, Bob McDonnell of Virginia and Nikki Haley of South Carolina.

Democratic Rep. David Price of Chapel Hill blasted the measure, calling it part of the “drill, baby, drill mentality.”

“In my home state of North Carolina,” Price said, “offshore drilling is highly controversial because of its potential adverse impacts on the environment and coastal communities, as well as the tourist economies on which they depend. In California, voters put in place a permanent ban on drilling in state coastal waters in 1994 because of the same concerns. In light of disasters such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf, North Carolinians are justifiably (leery) of allowing the same drilling off our coast.”

Vacancy process change stalled

A last-minute attempt to change the way the governor fills district court judge vacancies has been sidelined after House members questioned why it was suddenly so urgent.

Currently, the governor must choose a replacement from nominations by lawyers in that district’s bar. The change would free up the governor to choose from the bar’s recommendations or select someone else.

The provision was inserted into an unrelated bill during a House recess Thursday in a hastily called session of the Rules Committee. The committee approved the change on a voice vote that appeared to be split along party lines, with Republicans in favor.

Later that afternoon, the bill came to the floor, where it met a hostile reception from several Democratic lawmakers. Rep. Mickey Michaux of Durham wanted to know why it hadn’t gone through the regular process, which would have faced scrutiny in a judiciary committee. “It seems a little underhanded to me,” Michaux said.

Rep. Sarah Stevens, a Republican attorney from Mount Airy and chairwoman of one of the judiciary subcommittees, moved to send it to judiciary, but Moore, who also is a lawyer, objected, stressing he wanted the provision and the bill to which it was attached to move forward immediately.

Stevens suggested the bill be held over until the short session, because it had become controversial, but Moore opposed that idea, too. Other representatives objected to the provision being inserted into what had been a carefully crafted bill that passed the Senate unanimously about containing medical costs for treating county jail inmates.

The standoff continued until Moore announced he had found a “technical” problem with the bill and would agree to send the bill back to the Judiciary Committee.

Ex-ALE director contests firing

Former state Alcohol Law Enforcement Director John Ledford is contesting his firing, contending it was politically motivated and unlawful, even though it was done amid the typical house-cleaning of agency officials whenever there is a change in administrations.

Ledford, a longtime Democratic-connected figure, stepped down from his position as director in advance of the new Republican administration earlier this year. He reassigned himself to the position of an agent stationed in Asheville, where he lives.

New Department of Public Safety Commissioner of Law Enforcement Frank Perry dismissed him, saying Ledford had no authority to take that position nor to give himself a salary far in excess of what the job pays. The department contends Ledford was not a career state employee, and so cannot challenge his dismissal.

“Clearly, my termination and the campaign surrounding same was the product of my known Democratic affiliation, and an illegal effort by the current Republican administration to discriminate against me on the basis thereof,” Ledford wrote in his petition for a hearing.

A hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 9 and 10 in Raleigh. Ledford is represented by attorney Larry Leake, a former chairman of the state Board of Elections.

Staff writers Rob Christensen and Craig Jarvis

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