A fine mess

I've been wondering today what would actually happen if Jim Black did the honorable thing and resigned as speaker of the NC House. Well, Chris Fitzsimmon of NC Policy Watch lays it out for all to see:

With the Charlotte Observer and the Fayetteville Observer renewing calls for Black to step down and Republican candidates for the General Assembly now issuing statements blasting Democrats for standing by Black, some members of the House Democratic Caucus are now pondering what happens if Black does step down.

The House rules call for a new election as Speaker. That was part of the deal that allowed Republican Richard Morgan to win election as Speaker Pro Tem with Democratic support, that he would not automatically become Speaker if Black stepped aside.

Most of the scenarios about Black resigning were imagined when the House was in session and could hold a new election for Speaker. But now that the session has adjourned, it would take a special session for the House to elect a new leader, which would focus even more media attention on the scandals, a prospect Democrats would rather avoid.

The alternative is that as long as there is not a special session for another reason, Morgan may be able to step in for Black and Chair certain committees and possibly make appointments to commissions and some studies.

It is not clear that be would allowed under House Rules. It is also not clear that all Democrats would stand for it, especially House members who are likely to seek the Speakership in 2007 if the Democrats maintain control of the House. Assuming the Speaker’s office now may give one of the Democrats a head start on the 2007 Speaker’s race.

It is worth noting again that Black has not been charged with any crime. But more than one House Democrat is now waiting for the next shoe to drop in the investigation. The discussion of the what if Black resigns scenario is proof of that.

The state Democratic leadership has had scores of opportunities to avoid this frickin' mess over the past six months and failed again and again to heed the calls of people all across the political spectrum to take action. They didn't - and now all of our asses are in a proverbial sling. I know we don't pay our legislators very much for all the work we do, and it sure looks like we're getting our money's worth.

For the record and to clarify my position on this, I don't give a damn if Jim Black is guilty of a crime or not. The wheels of justice will turn and, hopefully, truth will emerge. My objection is more fundamental: Mr. Black has stunningly bad judgment and does not deserve the leadership position that has been entrusted to him.


I wish

we could get the Black crap handled so I could return my attention to the Puppetshow. Even Dilbert is getting in on some of the Puppetmaster action.

Common Sense

weighs in too.


Bags of cash? Secret IHOP meetings? Is this a legislature or a low-budget spy movie?

In the aftermath of former Rep. Michael Decker’s guilty plea in federal court this week, one thing’s for sure: Everyone in North Carolina should wish we could go back in time and pass a better ethics reform bill in the just-concluded legislative session.

Despite the best efforts of reform advocates (such as Common Sense), the N.C. General Assembly passed a reform bill that made only minor changes in the way business is done in Raleigh. Loopholes still abound, including loopholes that allow for unlimited fundraising by lobbyists for campaigns.

For the past year, we’ve all been talking about the golden opportunity for reform presented to us by the series of humiliating scandals in state government. Now that the embarrassment is reaching its peak, it sure would be nice to have a newly-passed, tough-as-nails ethics reform bill to wave before the TV cameras and say, “Never again.”

Maybe next year.

Common Sense Foundation