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Legislators Poised To Tackle Numerous Issues, Including Protecting Children

Posted January 27, 2003

— North Carolina Republicans are calling for the resignation of Michael Decker, a legislator who just switched parties and threw the race for the speakership into a frenzy.

Once the dust settles in that fight, there are plenty of issues for lawmakers to tackle when they get back to work on Wednesday. One of those issues is protecting children.

The state recently shut down a Durham day-care center after its owner was accused of giving two babies a pacifier and a bottle spiked with NyQuil. Alamance County District Attorney Rob Johnson wants legislators to make it a felony for any day-care center to give unauthorized medications to children.

"There seems to be a practice going on as to what I would refer to as doping of children," Johnson said. "Basically, it is giving medication of over-the-counter products to make the children drowsy and sleepy."

The State's Child Fatality Task Force likely will pitch the proposal, as well as a tougher gun storage law to keep guns out of the hands of children.

Most of the legislators' time will be spent on fixing a state budget deficit that could reach $2 billion.

The department that houses the National Guard, Highway Patrol and DMV enforcement will be the target of Senate Leader Marc Basnight. The Dare County Democrat wants to abolish the department to save $3 million to $4 million.

Basnight was unsuccessful in an attempt to abolish the department two years ago.

"We can prove that you can do that," Basnight said. "Last time, we eliminated crime control and proved that you could do that.

"We did that in an open-committee process, so everybody could review it."

Basnight said it's too early to say if tax increases will be considered this time. He said a state lottery will come up again because every state surrounding North Carolina has one.

Other hot issues this year will include halting executions, banning video poker and reforming malpractice insurance.


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