Columns » Exile on Jones Street

Things left undone

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Hot on the heels of passage of a rather popular state budget, both the House and Senate got to things still undone while hurtling toward a departure from Dodge maybe as soon as the end of this week.

A minimum wage hike, one big leap in getting the heck outta the capital, was approved by the Senate but not before several GOP members got out their violins on behalf of small businessmen everywhere.

Still on the to-do list are a series of reform bills and a landfill moratorium, which, like the minimum wage, was one of the policy-oriented special provisions stripped out of the budget by the House. Shortly after the budget was passed, Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight, whose district includes one of a half-dozen proposed mega-landfills, said he would still like to see a moratorium.

"I am disappointed that the budget did not include the opportunity for us to slow down and study this important issue," he wrote in an e-mail. "North Carolina has never dealt with landfills of this size before, and I think it hurts our state to move forward with these mega-landfills without a full understanding of their effects on our communities and our environment."

Though House budget negotiators said a moratorium bill would be introduced, it has yet to surface. If anything does happen on the landfills--like, say, an added layer of state review for operations that bring in massive shipments of out-of-state waste--it will be part of this week's wind-down ballet. Rest assured the seven lobbyists reportedly working the halls for Waste Management (motto: "Home of the Enormous Campaign PAC") will let us know the instant there's so much as a flutter on the issue.

Speaking of campaign contributions, there's also continued movement on the slate of 10 reform bills, with new lobbying rules and a public financing pilot program fixin' to clear the House and the rest working through the Senate, which has put its own touches on reform. On Friday, senators approved a new version of a treasurer-training bill that would tighten rules and expand reporting requirements for so-called 527 groups. Any group sending out significant amounts of mail or making phones calls will have to file reports on its fund-raising sources and expenditures.

Yes, you too, Mr. Pope.

The joy of dullness

In some of the stranger spots of the universe, like Washington, D.C., the summer before an election is time to cart out the hot button legislation.

Around here, though, don't expect to hear the gays, God, guns and gringos rhetoric until after folks go home and hit the baby-kissing and barbecue circuit.

In fact, even though it's been fast, this year's session has not been furious. Debates on the budget were, well, kinda dull. Part of the reason is that the GOP is clearly divided and a bit bruised from primary battles. Part of it was that the budget really did have bipartisan support, especially in the House where 22 out of 57 GOP members voted for it. In both chambers, those who did rise to speak against the budget did so mostly in theoretical terms and often prefaced their remarks with something along the lines of "Now, there's a lot to like in this bill." Ya-awwwn.

With a handful of those GOP moderates--including co-speaker Richard Morgan--not coming back next year, thanks mainly to the largess of the above-mentioned Mr. Pope, we'll see if brighter partisan lines are drawn come next June.

Hall taking Miller's seat

Larry Hall has been chosen by Durham Democratic Party leaders to replace Rep. Paul Miller, who resigned last month after being arrested for allegedly falsifying federal student loan repayments.

Hall, who won the Democratic primary and will run unopposed for District 29, was sworn in July 11. With legislators poised to leave town, Hall won't get a lot of time to get acquainted with his new peers.

It's getting clearer, clearer

No crystal ball needed here to see that the eye exam requirement and that messy check imbroglio will be a hit with campaign commercial scriptwriters. Though the Senate handed the House the hot potato a couple of weeks ago by finally passing Julia Boseman's repeal bill, House leaders are working on a compromise that would lift the requirement for kindergartners to have an eye exam before they can start school. The new bill improves school vision screening programs and follow-up with parents if there's a problem found.

While that should make it too complicated for talk radio, I'll bet we still see plenty of campaign materials with eye charts and vision-related puns. Eye carumba!

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