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

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