Local News

Republicans Seek Changes In House Leadership Positions

Posted April 6, 2006

— The latest complaint related to allegations against House Speaker Jim Black is that too much power is in the hands of too few. Now, state Republican leaders are looking for ways to change the power structure on Capitol Hill.

As House Republicans talked about leadership fairness and reform on Wednesday, they spoke with the foregone conclusion that Black won't be Speaker of the State House when they return for the May session.

"I feel confident that the Democrats will want to clear the air," said Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake.

Lawmakers complained that legislative leaders sometimes stack committees by either adding or subtracting members to get the outcome they want. The Republicans are now calling for open-door budget conferences, so pet projects won't be secretly added. They want to see party influence more evenly spread.

"A fundamental problem is that we have power that is far too concentrated," said Dollar.

"We are willing to abide by any rules that are fairer to both sides, that if we were in the majority we would be willing to extend to the minority," said Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake. "We just ask fairness from whoever the next Speaker will be."

Clearly, there are some political motives at work in the proposals. But the Republicans argue the changes are more about power than party. They also conceded the last time a Republican held the post, some of the same abuses of power occurred.

"Too long in a position causes you to claim ownership, and that's exactly what's happening, along with the money flow," said Rep. Russell Capps, R-Wake.

One way that Republican lawmakers have proposed to better balance power is by imposing limits on the number of terms a speaker can serve.

Black's office says he has no plans to step down, and he has been meeting with lawmakers to ready for the upcoming session. The Democratic House Caucus could meet sometime next week to talk about leadership. State and federal investigations are ongoing.

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