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Floaters sunk, eating Liddy’s lunch, Easley’s denials

by Kirk Ross

Farewell to the floaters

The bills are coming fast and furious now ahead of the crossover deadline. The rules are different or will be. Last week, in an afternoon press conference ahead of the official introduction of legislation, new House Speaker Joe Hackney explained that some of the remnants of the Liston Ramsey dynasty and the fractious leadership of House Republicans in the 1990s has been stripped from the rule book. Hackney told reporters he’d been around long enough to form some opinions about what to keep and what to toss.

Among the first out the window was the use of floaters – a practice started under GOP rule in which members of the leadership were also members of each committee and could sway committee votes by floating in at the last minute and adding a few critical yeas or nays. Hackney, who was called on to float a bit in his leadership roles, said eliminating the practice was long overdue.

While that change may have an immediate effect as committees gear up and start voting to reject or send on legislation, a couple other changes are likely to be felt as the budget process winds to a close. One rule change requires there to be at least a day between a measure’s approval by committee and its appearance on the floor. That means the all-too-quick turnaround of the budget should now slow down long enough to allow representatives to actually read it before they vote.

No promises, of course. You can lead a horse to water….

Price on the border

Rep. David Price, the new chair of the US House Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees the budget for the Department of Homeland Security, cruised the US-Mexico border in a Blackhawk helicopter last month to get a view of the area where the previous congress decided to put a fence.

Price has expressed reservations about the project including its nearly $1 billion cost. Some of the more urban areas planned for the fence makes sense, Price said in a recent hearing. But he’s skeptical about running the $3 million-a-mile project through remote, rural areas.

Liddy’s lunch

Democrats seem convinced that someone’s going to be eating Liddy Dole’s lunch come November 2008. Add to that feeling a new poll sponsored by the Democratic Senatorial Committee that shows just 35 percent of likely voters willing to give this state’s senior senator another go. That is not good news for an incumbent with almost universal name recognition. It’s the opposite problem the last unseated sitting senator in North Carolina had. Lauch Faircloth went into election season in 1998 with higher favorables, but name recognition in the low 40s.

Rambunctious

In a related matter, Gov. Mike Easley, future fine furniture maker (and who knows what else), has got to have his “I’m not running for Senate” speech way down by now. He’s probably been asked the question once a week since he won re-election to his second term. But that didn’t stop public television’s Charlie Rose from pressing the guv on why he didn’t want the job when Easley recently paid a visit to the NC native’s talk show.

Easley stuck to his pat answer about not liking meetings or governing by committee and offered that even in school he was too rambunctious to sit still for long. While that sounds like another definite “no” to the Senate job, it doesn’t sound like a guy ready for the life of a Southport retiree.

Yeow

That particularly loud whine you’re hearing is actually the yowl of some of the fat cats on various state boards over having to abide by new ethics rules. The big complaint, heard mainly from various trustees of the state’s institutions of higher learning, is over financial disclosure rules requiring they report business investments and securities held in publicly-traded and privately held companies in excess of $10,000.

So far, roughly two dozen trustees across the state have decided to resign rather than fill out the forms. While the state will undoubtedly miss the service these fine folks have provided, it’s hard to imagine that chancellors are going to have to beat the bushes for more volunteers.

Kirk Ross travels the state for CapeFearMercury.com and writes about state governance at ExileOnJonesStreet.com. He can be reached at editor@capefearmercury.com.

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