Ethics bill pulled from Senate agenda

An aerial view of the North Carolina Senate floor

June 23, 2010 3:18:17 PM PDT
Ethics reform was supposed to be topic number one in the North Carolina Senate Wednesday, but at the last second it was pulled from the agenda.

Insiders say Republicans didn't want to support the bill as written. But politically, they couldn't vote against it because it's ethics reform - which voters want. So they pulled some strings, called big donors, and got it sent back to committee.

The move may wind up strengthening what many say was a very weak bill. Government watchdog Jane Pinsky told ABC11 there wasn't much reform in it.

"What the senate did was take one of the House bills, which was pay-to-play legislation and they stripped it out. They gutted it and put in their own bill," she offered.

The Senate version was much more nuanced than the House version - with 35 pages instead of two.

And Pinsky says much weaker.

"It certainly is not what the Governor called for, and it's not at all like the bills that the House sent to the Senate last year," she said.

But Senate Majority Leader Martin Nesbitt says the bill is strong enough.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with it," he said.

Nesbit challenged the criticism, for instance, that the bill allows contractors to give money to people who sign their contracts.

"The bill has a specific law in it about that, we've restated it and made it even more specific," he explained.

But Pinksy says the bill prohibits lawmakers from asking for money from contractors - not from contractors giving money on their own.

"That means they're going to continue to write checks to people who can sign contracts with them and that's just not good," she said.

Pinsky says the bill also doesn't require people appointed to commissions to disclose whether they gave money to the people who appointed them.

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