Crunching the ethics numbers and other stuff

This week's Exile on Jones Street column is a bit of a hodgepodge -- numbers on ethics filings, the pace of legislation and a tidbit from the budget debate.

Number crunching
Word out of the State Ethics Commission offices this week that unlike Ivory Snow, 99 and 44/100ths won’t do.

“I’m accepting 100 percent, it’s just a matter of when that happens,” Kathleen Edwards, assistant director and compliance chief for the commission said this week when asked how many of the state’s roughly 4,300 officials she expects to comply with new disclosure rules.

At an ethics commission meeting last week, Edwards said 95.5 percent of those required to file financial disclosure statements under new ethics rules had filed. The commission staff estimated that about 60 officials had resigned their posts rather than comply with the rules. The new ethics laws, which require disclosure of significant business investments and relationships apply to legislators, judges, university trustees and top leadership, higher-level state employees and members of about 260 state boards and commissions.

Letters went out in mid-April to everyone who had missed the deadline for filing and to those who had filed but missed something on the form. Edwards said those individuals have until next week to get their forms in. Anyone lagging after that will be sent a certified letter letting them know they face a $250 civil penalty. Individuals will be given a chance to take their appeal to the commission.

In addition to the fine, those employed by state agencies could be subject to disciplinary action by their employers for not filing. According to the law, decisions about whether someone who had not filed could remain on a board or commission rests with the appointing authority.

Meanwhile, the commission says keep those cards and letters coming.

Crossover and over
For the state House, the budget is passed and the Senate gets a crack at the numbers. Not record time, but it beats the next crunch on the legislative calendar: the crossover deadline.

For those of you not familiar with the crossover rule, here’s the shorthand: Anything not passed by one of the two chambers by the crossover deadline dies.

Over the years, bills have been resurrected after the fact, but this year that may be a little tougher act to pull off. With the House sticking to its no blank bills policy and still displaying a general disdain for special provisions, some of the common routes of revival are blocked or at least more difficult.

While the accelerated schedule has some trumpeting efficiency in Raleigh, others are worried that there’s not enough time to do the proper oversight. Couple that worry with a near-record number of bills filed this year and you understand why the deadline was moved last week from May 17 to May 24. Even so, with some committees looking at more than 100 bills to review between now and then, a lot of concern remains about the pace. “We’re passing bills without having a chance to really look at them,” one senator said recently.

Warm fuzzy
The often-outspoken Alamance Republican Rep. Cary Allred has sparred more than a few times with House Speaker Joe Hackney over the years, but last week, as the clock ticked toward midnight and the presumed passage of the House’s version of the budget, Allred took a moment to congratulate the Speaker on returning some openness and comity to the process. After realizing he might be gushing a bit, though, Allred stopped himself and added simply: “And that’s about as nice as I can be."



What's your take on the Linda Johnson assault on the Constitution?

wading through it this weekend

Not sure of the odds.
There are a lot of bills in the hopper people want to get passed before the crossover deadline. Eating up a day or so in debate on the recall and then the bill would gum things up a bit, so that's a disincentive. I would bet the argument will be that it is not enough time to take up so serious a change.

From a wider perspective, I think this is gut-check time for progressives. Look at the marriage amendment resurfacing and the lack of political will on the execution bill in the Senate. This is the furthest session from the next election and already the discussion is about whether the Dems should throw this group or that under the bus to save the majority in 2008.