State News

Senate panel approves package of ethics reforms

Posted June 22, 2010 4:04 a.m. EDT
Updated June 22, 2010 6:59 p.m. EDT

— A judiciary committee in the North Carolina Senate approved a package of ethics law changes and campaign finance and government reforms Tuesday that includes ideas from House members, Gov. Beverly Perdue and good-government advocates.

"It's wonderful to see this moving," said Jane Pinsky, director of the North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform. "It's a significant first step, with some things on the edges that need to be fine-tuned."

The full Senate was expected to consider the ethics reform bill on Wednesday.

The reforms would require more disclosure and detailed reporting, increase transparency and discourage pay-to-play in state politics. They also would expand voluntary public financing in statewide elections, which would eliminate the need for candidates to seek contributions from people with whom they do business.

"I have some heartburn, I'd be less than honest if I didn't say, with voter financing of any election, said Sen. David Hoyle, D-Gaston, who added that he plans to support the bill.

Senate Majority Leader Martin Nesbitt said the comprehensive bill also includes changes to improve the public's access to government records and state employee personnel information.

"There's probably 15 different places we put our stamp on it, and I think it covers all the bases," said Nesbitt, D-Buncombe.

The House approved three ethics bills last year, but they didn't get acted upon in the Senate. Interest grew this year as a federal grand jury continues to investigate activities surrounding former Gov. Mike Easley, and the State Board of Elections looks at campaign flights that Perdue and other candidates took aboard donors' planes.

"Several recent polls said as many as 70 percent of North Carolinians don't believe their government is honest. That's a real depressing thing," Pinsky said.