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State Ethics Committee Meets For First Time

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A House committee meeting on ethics and government reform met for the first time Friday morning.

The meeting was the first for the new 22-member committee appointed by House Speaker Jim Black. The group, which will met several times, will look at how to give the state's ethics laws more bite.

Watch complete coverage of Ethics Committee Meeting Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m., or Sunday at 3 p.m. on the WRAL NewsChannel, digital cable channel 256 or over-the-air 5.2.

Some critics may find it ironic that Black has set up a committee on Ethics and Government Reform. Federal investigators are looking into allegations he's given people state jobs in exchange for money or favors. Black said he's done nothing illegal.

Meredith Norris, Black's former political director, is under investigation for suspected violations. Norris did not register as a lobbyist even though she worked as a consultant for a company looking to land a state lottery contract.

Further controversy surrounded Black's choice for one of the lottery commissioners. Kevin Geddings resigned in November after failing to disclose lottery company Scientific Games paid him thousands of dollars last year -- the last payment coming the day after he was appointed.

Lottery commissioners were required to filled out a full disclosure document, but there is no serious penalty for not doing so truthfully.

The House committee may look into harsher penalties for withholding information on sworn statements. Lawmakers did pass a lobbying reform bill. It requires lobbyists to report how much they spend wining and dining lawmakers, but it doesn't take effect until 2007. Black wants it to go into effect sometime in 2006.

Black did not attend the first meeting of the group on Friday.

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