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Democrats apologize to Buck Newton for 2010 campaign charges

Democratic former state A.B. Swindell and the state Democratic Party have issued an apology to Republican state Sen. Buck Newton regarding charges made in the 2010 campaign as part of a settlement in the suit.

During the Senate campaign, Swindell and the state Democratic Party ran radio ads and distributed mailings saying that while in college at Appalachian State University in 1990 Newton was arrested for selling illegal narcotics.

“The ads and mailings were based on records we obtained from the Watauga County Clerk of Court,” says the letter signed by Swindell and Jay Parmley, who is executive director of the Democratic  Party. Swindell was defeated in the election.

“The court file we received did not contain an Addendum to the dismissal of the charges against Buck Newton, signed by an Assistant District Attorney in Watauga County.” the letter said.

The letter cites the letter from the assistant DA saying Newton's arrest was a case of mistaken identity and he was not involved the matter.

“Based upon the statements in the Addendum, Buck Newton was not involve din any way in these drug sales,” the letter said. “Had we received the Addendum along with the rest of the Court file, we would not have run the ads or distributed the mailings during the campaign.”

“The North Carolina Democratic Party and I regret this mistake and sincerely apologize to Senator Newton and his family for any embarrassment and harm we may have caused,” the letter says.

In a statement, Newton said he was satisfied with the apology and the resolution of the lawsuit.

“As I have said from the beginning, and as their apology states, I was completely innocent of the charges made in their advertisements,” Newton said. “I appreciate my name being cleared and finally getting an apology.  It is past time to close the book on this kind of politics and put all of this behind us.''

Senate passes bills meant to help students get jobs

The Senate today passed a bundle of bills intended to expand science and technology education in the state and more closely connect public schools to businesses.

The bills come out of the JOBS Commission, headed by Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, and are designed to get the state to look closer at innovative high school programs, said Sen. A.B. Swindell, a Nashville Democrat.

Among the ideas, allowing five-year career academies to operate inside existing high schools and having the Education Cabinet that Gov. Bev Perdue leads make one of its priorities increasing students who earn degrees in math, science, technology or engineering, Lynn Bonner reports.

Sen. Eddie Goodall,  president of the N.C. Alliance for Public Charter Schools and a Union County Republican, tried to use one of the bills to get a vote on lifting the state charter school limit, but his effort was stifled.

The House and Senate budgets include $200,000 to help create special career-themed schools.

Senate budget increases class size

The Senate's proposed $20.05 billion budget relies on an average of two more students in classrooms across the state.

Increasing class size to 20 students in K-3 and 22 in grades 4-12 would save $320 million annually, said Sen. Linda Garrou, the senate's senior budget writer and a Winston-Salem Democrat.

The class size proposal is likely to find favor among Republicans who have previously called for the change.

Garrou and her fellow appropriations committee co-chairs gave a peek at the Senate's budget Monday. The full document will be available online at 7 p.m. The details released so far highlight a document that differs from Gov. Beverly Perdue's budget in several key areas.

The budget would lay off as many as 712 state employees and eliminate some 900 vacant positions. Perdue's proposal would have sought to keep layoffs to a pool of fewer than 300 employees.

The leaders of state departments would have targets to meet in cuts. Officials could make the cuts in several ways including furloughs, said Sen. A.B. Swindell, a Nashville Democrat. Perdue said she avoided furloughs because she feared the message it would send to businesses and investors about the state's financial condition.

House, Senate honor lobbyist Bone

Both chambers of the legislature are considering resolutions honor the late lobbyist and former House member Roger Bone.

Bone was considered one of the most influential lobbyists in the legislature.

— "Roger made it to the being a very personal, common man," said Sen. Martin Nesbitt, an Asheville Democrat.

— "Roger was never more than the boy from Sandy Cross," said Sen. A.B. Swindell, a Nashville Democrat.

— "We're grateful to him for just making this a place where we can enjoy each other's company ... as we talk about the ways to make North Carolina better," said Sen. Tony Rand, a Fayetteville Democrat and senate majority leader.

Bone served in the 1979 session of the House, later worked as a legislative liaison to Speaker Liston Ramsey, and founded his own lobbying firm in 1987.

The House will consider its resolution when it goes into session at 1 p.m.

Update: The House took up the Senate version of the resolution.

— "He is what some would call a permanent fixture of the legislative building as he has been around as long as anyone can remember," said Rep. William Wainwright, a Havelock Democrat. "North Carolina is a better place because Roger Bone passed our way."

— "He possessed a unique passion for sound public policy," said Rep. Randy Stewart, a Rocky Mount Democrat.

"I can recally many conversations with Roger down in the snackbar of this buildign as he explaiend to me ...the dynamics that really move this assembly," said Rep. David Lewis, a Dunn Republican.

Recent Senate bills

Some recent Senate bills of note:

S.B. 351: No Felon as Sheriff, Sen. Stan Bingham

S.B. 353: N.C. Human Trafficking Commission, Sen. Ellie Kinnaird

S.B. 362: Retired Teachers Return to Work, Sen. A.B. Swindell

More Senate bills

A few recent Senate bills of note:

S.B. 131: Penalty for DWI Conviction/BAC .20 or Higher, Sen. Don Vaughan

S.B. 137: Military Death / In-State Tuition / Dependant, Sen. Neal Hunt

S.B. 138: Salvia Divinorum Schedule I, Sen. Bill Purcell

S.B. 147: Tax Credit for Energy-Efficient Homes, Sen. A.B. Swindell

S.B. 155: Community Colleges Can't Admin Illegal Aliens, Sen. Phil Berger

S.B. 157: Eminent Domain, Sen. Phil Berger

Senate budget chairs announced

The Senate leadership has chosen the budget writers.

Along with longtime budget co-chair Sen. Linda Garrou, Sens. Charlie Albertson, A.B. Swindell and Charlie Dannelly will co-chair the budget committee.

Albertson and Dannelly served on the budget committee for the first time last year.

In recent years, the budget committee has served as Senate leader Marc Basnight's finishing school for ambitious senators, prepping Gov. Beverly Perdue, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton and U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan for runs for higher office.

In a typical year, co-chairs enjoy the additional power of being able to put pet projects into the state budget and direct funding to their favorite causes.

This year, it may be more of a thankless job, as they struggle to fill a $2 billion gap.

On the Budget: A.B. Swindell

A.B. SwindellSen. A.B. Swindell
Nashville Democrat
Five Terms

What two things would you cut in the state budget? He said he thought there savings by cutting out middle managers throughout state government — particularly not filling existing vacancies.

Are there any taxes you would be in favor of increasing? He said he would be willing to look at closing some tax loopholes, without mentioning anything specific. 

— Rob Christensen

Senator says Hudson is just ducky

A little reminiscing probably never hurt, which may be why state Sen. A.B. Swindell began his character letter by talking about a duck hunt the senator and the judge shared. Swindell, a Nash County Democrat, is a 25-year friend to Boyce Allen Hudson, who is scheduled for sentencing today on charges related to a bribery scheme.

Swindell, unlike the others who wrote letters on Hudson's behalf, began with a little memory lane for U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle.

I shall never forget the time you and I spent together duck hunting in Hyde County. I miss Daddy so much — he [sic] such a friend to so many. I trust your family is doing well — please tell Tom I said hello and that Mother is doing well at the Methodist retirement home in Greenville.

Maybe the nostalgia will help.

swindell letter.pdf

21 legislators praised for disclosure

A campaign finance reform group has praised 21 legislators for their openness.

Democracy North Carolina identified a group of state lawmakers who are doing "a superior job" identifying occupations and employers of their donors on campaign finance forms.

Though candidates are required to make their best effort to identify all donors, many fall short, listing only names, dates and amounts.

The group singled out legislators who raised more than $15,000 and provided full information on 98 percent or more of donors, including Senate President Marc Basnight and House Speaker Joe Hackney, both Democrats.

From the House: Democrats Tricia Cotham, Jim Crawford, Margaret Dickson, Rick Glazier, Bruce Goforth, Deborah Ross, Russell Tucker, Jennifer Weiss and Verla Insko, and Republican David Lewis.

From the Senate: Democrats Charlie Albertson, Doug Berger, Linda Garrou, Clark Jenkins, A.B. Swindell and Republicans Pete Brunstetter, Neal Hunt, Richard Stevens and Jerry Tillman.

"It's crucial for the public to have the full picture about the candidates before they vote — and the pattern of where a campaign’s money comes from is an important part of that picture," said Kaitlin Stollbrink, an intern at Democracy North Carolina.

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