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New Legislation Would Keep Public Informed About Lobbyists' Activities

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Big business is willing to pay for support from local lawmakers, and it is not illegal. New legislation could help keep you informed about how business is done in North Carolina.

A coalition of conservatives and liberals, lobbyists and lawmakers, who often fight each other, have now united. Groups like the Common Sense Foundation back legislation that would force lobbyists to reveal how much they really spend on lawmakers.

"More than anything, we want greater sunshine in the lobby process," said Bob Phillips, of the Common Cause Foundation.

It is estimated that millions of dollars in perks now legally go unreported as long as specific legislation is not discussed.

"We need to let people know who's buying legislation, who's paying money to get bills passed," said David Mills, of the Common Sense Foundation.

"The main thing is for the public to know how its business is being done," said Sen. Richard Stevens, R-Wake.

Stevens is co-sponsoring a bill that would require more detailed accounting of economic incentives. When the state promised Dell Computer up to a quarter of a billion dollars in tax breaks to build in the Triad, critics called for more disclosure on all deals.

"We're stewards of the public's money -- How we do it? How we spend it? How we're taking care of the public's business. In my opinion, [it] ought to be wide open for public view," Stevens said.

Despite bipartisan support, both bills have not moved quickly through the legislature. The lobbying reform bill has been sitting in committee since January.


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