At 12:45 p.m. today, the House voted 95-14 to concur with the Senate on House Bill 1133, which makes the General Assembly and all of its offices smoke-free. Sent by special messenger to the Governor.
When they come back from vacation, the ashtrays will be gone. Hats off to Rep. Glazier. Powerful speech at the end by Carolyn Justice. Visit the NC Alliance for Health site for more background on this and other smoking issues. Here’s a previous column on this bill.
Audio: The North Carolina General Assembly bans smoking in its buildings (11 minutes)

Senate out for the time being

The Senate has adjourned until 11 a.m. Friday, but is likely to go back into session tonight to read in the conference report according to Sen. Basnight. Basnight said conferees were still working things out, but that if the report could be finished up and read in things would stay on schedule.

The schedule, as I understand it is:
Conference report is read in tonight, debated Friday and voted on Friday sometime. Both House and Senate will stay up until at least a minute past midnight Saturday for vote number three and then adjourn until Wednesday am. (July Fourth, Tall Ships and all that ya know.)
Subject to change, of course.

One thing I’ve noticed is that some of the special provisions the Senate approved, but the House has taken out have come back through imbedded in other bills. Special provisions in the mental health sections of the budget just came back through the Senate as part of H2077. There may be a number of similar adjustments coming if the House sticks to its no policy provisions rule.

Budget is cooking

House just went into recess until 1 p.m. Speaker Black says the conferees are still working it out, but that there may be good news. He told House members to plan on a session Friday.
I could be way wrong, but I think odd are improving for a continuing resolution. Either that or there’s going to be a hell of a technical corrections bill.
N&O reports today that the landfill moratorium is one hitch in the negotiations. That is no surprise. Anyone taking a look at the magnitude should be taken aback.
There’s also a long list of things people want to get done before the tents are folded up.
Like real reform.
Also, as Lance points out, there’s also this damn billboard thing.

NC Nuke waste

This just in via CQ:

Senate Chairman Proposes Interim Storage for Nuclear Waste

A leading nuclear power advocate unveiled an energy and water spending bill today that would require the Energy Department to establish a network of interim storage sites for the nuclear waste currently piling up at reactors around the country.
The proposal by Sen. Pete V. Domenici, R-N.M., chairman of the Energy-Water Appropriations Subcommittee, would require the Energy Department to designate potential sites to consolidate spent nuclear fuel in states that are home to nuclear reactors.
The language is part of a fiscal 2007 spending bill that Domenici’s subcommittee was expected to approve this afternoon.
Staff members stressed the bill would provide only temporary authority – 25 years – for each storage site, and that the proposal is not designed to take the place of the planned permanent repository at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain.

Might want to keep an eye on what in this state with reactors is named as the interim–25 years!!–site.

State drops in child well-being report

A national study released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation finds that North Carolina dropped from 40th to 41st in the state-by-state ranking of 10 child well-being factors. The annual Kids Count study, which tracks progress over the past few years, shows the state is slipping in the following categories:

– Low birth weight babies;
– teen death rate;
– the percentage of children in poverty (this was a big jump) and;
– percentage of children in single parent homes

Nationally, three out of ten factors got worse–more children in poverty, more low birth weight babies and more children in households where the parent or parents are unemployed. The nation as a whole improved in infant and teen death rates, a lower teen birth rate and a reduction in high school dropout rates.

North Carolina, though, still ranks 40th in the nation in infant mortality according to the study.

Speech of the Week

Here’s the set-up:
House Bill 1845, one of the bills intended to reform the rules on campaigns, gifts and so on, greatly tightens what legislators can do with campaign money. In the past, some members have used the extra cash left in the campaign coffers for a whole list of personal expenditures. No one is naming names, but clothing and cars seem to be the main items. The bill also makes campaign treasurers responsible for better reporting. Some reports just put down amounts paid to media companies or even credit card companies, but not what they money was used for.

During debate on the bill, Rep. Mickey Michaux offered an amendment that would have delayed the implementation of certain sections until January 1, 2007 instead of October 1 of this year. Michaux said he was concerned that treasurers would not be trained in time on the new rules. (A treasurer training bill is part of the reform package.) He added he was worried that the change would inadvertently “get a whole lot of people in trouble” and candidates would have a hard time finding people who wanted to volunteer to be treasurers.

This proposal, which would delay the rule changes until after this fall’s election, underlined that some of these bills have split both Democrats and Republicans. Wake Democrat Deborah Ross, the sponsor and floor leader for the bill, was put into a position of arguing against Michaux and other powerful Democrats saying the public wants reform now and from this Assembly.

But it was Republican John Blust of Guilford who was tasked with keeping his troops in line while reminding them and the Democrats that the integrity of the House was in question. This while the man with the gavel–Speaker Jim Black–and everyone else knew full well how and why they’d gotten to this point. Blust gets Speech of the Week for making the case without taking any cheap shots–tempting as that may have been. The high road worked and the amendment failed 45 to 68. The bill passed the House 104 to 5 and goes on to the Senate. Until it passes and is signed by the Governor, North Carolina remains as one of the last few states yet to get around to telling folks they can only spend campaign money on campaigns.
Audio: Speech of the Week — John Blust arguing for reform