Local Politics

Time in Seats of Power Would End Under Proposal

Posted February 21, 2007 7:37 p.m. EST

— Following former House Speaker Jim Black’s conviction on state and federal corruption charges, a Guilford County lawmaker is suggesting limits on how long the top two legislative leaders can hold those posts.

Rep. John Blust’s idea to put a two-term cap on time in the jobs may fly in his chamber, but it could be headed right into a wall in the state Senate.

“Term after term, it puts pressure on leadership to raise big money,” Blust, a Republican, said Wednesday. Black’s problems involved taking money in return for using his influence as speaker during four two-year terms in the post.

Black’s successor as speaker, Rep. Joe Hackney, D-Orange County, said he is amenable to limits if they apply equally to the House and the Senate.

“I have no objection to a limit of some kind on the number of terms a speaker and president pro tem could serve, but it needs to be the same for both houses,” Hackney said. The president pro tempore is the day-to-day leader of the Senate.

“I don't know that a limit affects how a person behaves or whether he or she abides by the rules,” Senate President Marc Basnight, D-Dare County, said. “I don't believe any of us could say (that) what happened to the speaker is because of his time here.”

Basnight is serving his 15th consecutive year as leader of the Senate.

Blust's bill passed first reading in the House on Wednesday and was sent to a committee.