Local Politics

Time running out on pending legislation

Posted June 29, 2010 6:38 p.m. EDT
Updated June 29, 2010 7:07 p.m. EDT

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— Lawmakers will likely adjourn next week, leaving little time to pass bills dealing with ethics reform, the state's liquor system, puppy mills and other issues.

With the state budget headed to a final vote Wednesday, lawmakers said they plan to wrap up this year's legislative session by late next week, giving them five or six days to pass or take a pass on a number of hot-button issues addressed in recent weeks.

A Senate judiciary committee had six items on its agenda Tuesday morning and never even addressed ethics reform, the issue most people had come to hear.

"I don't think there's anything nefarious going on, but it is like the old phrase, democracy and sausage-making, it's not a pretty sight to watch," said Bob Hall, executive director of government watchdog group Democracy North Carolina.

An ethics reform bill was headed to the Senate floor last week before opposition to a provision providing more taxpayer financing of statewide campaigns forced it back into committee for further debate.

With an ongoing federal corruption investigation into former Gov. Mike Easley, reform advocates said lawmakers have little choice but to approve some ethics regulations.

"They will pass an ethics bill. What it looks like is still the question," Hall said.

A bill to reform the state Alcoholic Beverage Control system passed the House and remains in a Senate committee. House members said they are concerned with some of the proposed changes.

"When it comes back, I'm sure we'll get into conference and see if we can work that out," House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman said. "We are very concerned that we keep the things that passed in the House moving forward."

A bill that would impose new rules on some dog breeders passed the Senate and is expected to come up in a House committee later this week. Likewise, legislation banning businesses that sell Internet time so customers can gamble overwhelmingly passed the Senate and is awaiting debate in the House.

"We have mixed opinions out there," Holliman said of the ban on so-called sweepstakes cafes. "Some are for it. Some are wanting to ban it. Some are saying, 'Wait till next time.'"