From the Office of Rep. Phil Haire
Interim committees continue to meet at the General Assembly to discuss and study education, health, transportation and other matters vital to our state. The hope is that indepth evaluations of specific programs will lead to better decisions when we return to session in January.
This week, I wanted to share a few pieces of information about ethics, redistricting and the economy.
The legislature’s bipartisan Joint Legislative Ethics Committee has issued new guidelines prohibiting legislative employees who serve at the will of a lawmaker from having dating relationships or sexual relations with registered lobbyists or state agency liaisons unless they disclose the relationships to the employing legislators. The guidelines followed the resignations of two members of the Speaker’s staff who were found to have relationships with registered lobbyists.
A lawsuit challenging the legality of district maps drawn for the General Assembly and the U.S. House of Representatives continues, with both sides gathering evidence to bolster their case. The maps were drawn by the Republican majority and are being challenged by Democrats who allege the maps fail several legal requirements.
Redistricting is done every 10 years after the states receive the latest U.S. Census data. The N.C. Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform found that all 60 people who completed a recent survey distributed to members of both parties want to see a new redistricting process that minimizes the influence of politics in map drawing. The coalition is still gathering responses, and they will be posted on its website, www.nclobbyreform.org. The House approved a bill (H824) last session to establish a nonpartisan redistricting process, but the bill failed to pass the Senate.
Despite claims that the newest state budget would help improve the state’s economy, North Carolina continues to suffer with one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates. The unemployment rate rose for the second consecutive month, reaching 9.7 percent. The rate in North Carolina is worse than all but four other states: Nevada, Rhode Island, California and New Jersey. The national rate is 8.1 percent. Over the past 12 months, the number of government jobs in North Carolina has fallen by 3,800. The number of construction jobs in the state fell by 3,400 in just the past month.