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Ethics Legislation Still Being Debated In Senate Committee

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The clock is ticking on campaign finance and ethics reform at the North Carolina General Assembly.

The state House has already passed several pieces of legislation stemming from ethical questions linked to House Speaker Jim Black, D-Mecklenburg, and members are still debating complex lobbying changes.

Lately, however, the focus for lawmakers has shifted to the state budget, leading some to wonder about the fate of the campaign finance reforms,

"Once we get a budget, you're going to start seeing some pressure to go home, and my fear is that we're going to go home and leave some of these ethics and reform bills undone," said Rep. John Bust, R-Guilford. "And I think that's going to hurt us as an institution."

The state Senate just started discussing ethics in the judiciary committee on Tuesday. Despite the budget push and holiday next week, judiciary Chairman Daniel Clodfelter, D-Mecklenburg, said reform would not be forgotten.

"I think it's going to get through. We're going to work on it until we get through," Clodfelter said. "Now, a lot of this stuff just arrived in the Senate, so, we're taking this up just as quickly as we can."

Reform advocates said they are anxiously waiting.

"All those bills are crucial, and it would be outrageous if they went home without that," said Bob Hall with the government watchdog group Democracy North Carolina. "I don't think that's going to happen. I think they do want to do it."

A major point of contention is whether lawmakers will approve an independent ethics commission to oversee all branches of government. So far, they have opted to police themselves.

The final barometer will be voters. Lawmakers face re-election in November.


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