Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Greetings From Raleigh 09-12-07

This week's newsletter highlights changes made to our elections laws this past session, and begins with a summary of this week's special session.

Governor Mike Easley called the General Assembly back for a historic special session on Monday to consider whether to override his veto of a bill House Bill 1761 that would have provided $40 million in economic incentives to Goodyear to maintain its tire plant in Cumberland County. Legislative leaders and the Governor's office worked hard to devise a compromise that would avoid a first ever veto override. The compromise that was reached House Bill 4 expands available funds to $60 million and widens the pool of those companies that can access the money. In order to qualify, companies must employ at least 2000 in a Tier 1 county, and promise to spend at least $200 million in investments in the company. Governor Easley negotiated some wage and employment level standards tied to the grants, but the compromise otherwise is not much different from the bill he vetoed except that it spends more taxpayer money providing cash grants to existing companies. Recipients can reduce their workforce, although the grant amounts will be proportionately reduced. Rep. Paul Luebke tried to insert a "clawback" amendment that would require repayment of grants for laying off workers, but that failed. This bill sets a dangerous precedent by giving cash to existing companies to maintain jobs, and appears to have opened the floodgates to handouts of taxpayer money to multi billion dollar companies. The bill passed on a party line vote, with 3 Democrats (Reps. Luebke, Weiss, and me) voting no.

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One important goal of the House of Representatives during the recent regular session was to reform election laws to make the elections process more accessible, transparent, and effective. It is imperative that our citizens have every opportunity to participate in government at all levels and the ability to make informed decisions is fundamental. To do this, we tried to make voting simpler and passed laws to improve our electoral college system. In addition, we expanded voter-owned elections to include three Council of State races.

This week, I will review some of the efforts we have made in this area.

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