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Black caucus pledges to stay vocal this session

The Legislative Black Caucus laid out it's legislative agenda, using a quote from Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.: "There comes a time when silence is betrayal."

"Some say, 'This is a bad time for the Black Caucus. What are you really going to do?' We are going to do a lot because we are going to be vocal," said Rep. Garland Pierce, the caucus chairman and a Wagram Democrat. Black lawmakers make up the majority of the House and Senate Democratic caucuses.

He pounded the Republican agenda, as Democrats have for the past several weeks, as "truly taking form the needy and giving to the greedy." Pierce, a Baptist minister, combined legislation to allow the expiration of the earned-income tax credit, unemployment benefit cuts and blocking the expansion of Medicaid with voter ID, raising his voice to say "these things are fundamentally wrong at the core and plainly ungodly."

Pierce stopped short of suggesting the Republican cuts are racially tinged. "It's not so much about black, white and party, it's a class struggle," he said.

Jones: video gaming just like lottery

Rep. Earl Jones called a news conference Tuesday to announce his longshot effort to legalize and regulate video gambling has new endorsements.

The Black Caucus and the State Employees Association of North Carolina support the bill, which would take for the state 20 cents for every dollar spent on video poker machines. Dropping video gambling machines in bars, convenience stores and other establishments across the state could raise nearly $500 million in new revenue, Jones said.

And perhaps anticpating arguments about proliferating gambling across the state, Jones repeatedly stated his opinion that video gaming is no different than the lottery.

"Gambling activity is gambling activity, whether you're talking about a video lottery or a scratch-off ticket," said Jones, a Greensboro Democrat.

Dana Cope, present of SEANC, which represents 55,000 public employees, said the new revenue would allow the state to continue to provide needed services.

"North Carolina's government made this decision. We as a public made this decision when we voted to support the lottery in North Carolina," Cope said. "This is just the natural progression to regulate this industry to get that revenue income into the coffers of the state."

Video poker machines have left a legacy of corruption in the state. William Thevaos, president of the Entertainment Group of North Carolina, said the fact that the industry wants regulation and taxation shows that things will be different.

"We want to be taxed. We want to be legal," Thevaos said. "We want to create a new industry and we want to work with the state."

More after the jump.

100 years and still fighting

The NAACP is 100 years old and the North Carolina chapter celebrated the day by calling on lawmakers to spare the poor when they eviscerate next year's budget.

The civil rights organization was founded on Feb. 12, 1909. 

"While we celebrate our birthday today, we cannot take a break," said the Rev. William Barber, president of the state chapter. "Don't balance this budget on the backs of the poor."

Barber was, of course, referring to next year's budget deficit, which is expected to be at least $2 billion, nearly 10 percent of last year's $21.5 billion budget.

Lawmakers have demonstrated little appetite to raise taxes to fill the budget hole. The state is required to have a balanced budget and lawmakers are likely to adopt deep spending cuts to get there.

The state's largest expenditures are for education and health and human services. Barber and members of the Black Caucus advocated Thursday for leaving those categories out of the cuts.

"Simply talking about cutting across the board is a good sound byte, but it's bad public policy," Barber said.

Also Thursday, the House adopted a Senate resolution honoring the NAACP on it's 100th aniversary.

The Legislative Black Caucus

Who's in the Legislative Black Caucus?

Started in 1983, the nonprofit group of black lawmakers discusses common issues in the legislature, holds an annual conference and runs a foundation.

It currently has 21 members in the 120-member House and nine in the 50-member Senate.

Though members of the group do not agree on all issues, they have enough clout to help deliver — or block — a closely contested bill in the legislature.

Some members of the black caucus could play a key role in a smoking ban this year.

Though the majority of the caucus voted for a similar ban in 2007, the handful who didn't helped defeat it. Of those who voted against it, Reps. Beverly Earle, Earl Jones, Mickey Michaux and Earline Parmon are still in office.

Rep. Ty Harrell was absent, while Reps. Pearl Burris-Floyd, Elmer Floyd, Sandra Spaulding Hughes and Nick Mackey were not in office then.

A full list after the jump.

Wainwright named House's No. 2

William WainwrightRep. William Wainwright won a second term as speaker pro tem.

The Havelock Democrat was nominated to serve in the leadership role under Speaker Joe Hackney by Rep. Alma Adams, a fellow member of the Legislative Black Caucus.

She called Wainwright, an ordained minister, "a man of God."

"Around these halls we finally regard him as our bishop and we seek his counsel and his wise advice," she said. "He's a man of purpose, principled in his actions."

Reps. Alice Underhill of New Bern and Paul Luebke of Durham seconded the nomination.

Republican Rep. Dale Folwell of Winston-Salem was also nominated.

Wainwright won on a party-line vote. He has held the post since 2007.

Adams to chair Black Caucus again

Alma AdamsState Rep. Alma Adams will again chair the Legislative Black Caucus.

At a meeting on Dec. 4, the caucus unanimously re-elected the Greensboro Democrat to a second term as chairwoman, despite speculation that she may take a role in Gov.-elect Beverly Perdue's administration.

Sen. Malcolm Graham was also chosen as first vice chair; Rep. Earline Parmon, second vice chair; Rep. Annie Mobley, secretary; Sen. Tony Foriest, treasurer; Rep. Garland Pierce, caucus chaplain; and Sen. Floyd McKissick, parliamentarian.

According to a press release, the caucus' goal is to promote legislative policies "responsive to the needs of all North Carolinians, particularly African Americans." In recent years, it has played a role in passing the state's Earned Income Tax Credit, among other things.

In 2007, the caucus was criticized when it was revealed that relatives of five members received college scholarships from its foundation.

The caucus will now have 31 members, including newly elected Reps. Elmer Floyd of Fayetteville, Pearl Burris Floyd of Gaston County and Nick Mackey of Charlotte and Sen. Don Davis of Snow Hill. In 2007, it had just 28 members.

Burris Floyd will be the group's only Republican.

Black Caucus protests Johnson prosecution

The North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus is protesting the continued prosecution of James Johnson.

Johnson, 22, was jailed for three years for the 2004 murder of Brittany Willis, who was 17. He was freed in December pending a review of his case, and the murder, rape and kidnapping charges against him were later dropped because of a lack of evidence.

Johnson was then charged with accessory after the fact to murder, Titan Barksdale reports.

The Black Caucus demands in its resolution that "the last-minute (accessory) charge against Mr. Johnson be dismissed so he can get on with his life." The resolution was released by the NAACP today.

The accessory charge against Johnson is based on his statement that he wiped off his own fingerprints from Willis' SUV. After killing Willis, Kenneth Meeks, Johnson's former classmate, drove her SUV to Johnson's house to pick him up.

Johnson says that wiped off his fingerprints under duress because Meeks showed him the murder weapon and told him to help clean the SUV.

The Administrative Office of the Court hasn't published a date for Johnson's next court appearance.

House expels Wright, 109-5

The House voted to expel Thomas Wright, 109-5.

Voting against the motion were Rep. Earl Jones, a Greensboro Democrat; Rep. Earline Parmon, a Winston-Salem Democrat; Rep. Mary McAllister, a Fayetteville Democrat; Rep. Larry Womble, a Winston-Salem Democrat; and Wright himself.

All are members of the Legislative Black Caucus.

After the vote, Wright was escorted from the House floor by the Sergeant at Arms.

The proposed amendment to censure Wright failed on 102-12 vote.

Alog with Jones, McAllister, Womble and Wright, Rep. Alma Adams, a Greensboro Democrat; Rep. Larry Bell, a Clinton Democrat; Rep. Beverly Earle, a Charlotte Democrat; Rep. Larry Hall, a Durham Democrat; Rep. Maggie Jeffus, a Greensboro Democrat; Rep. Mickey Michaux, a Durham Democrat; Rep. Annie Mobley, an Ahoskie Democrat; and Rep. Drew Saunders, a Huntersville Democrat, voted for censure.

Except for Jeffus and Saunders, all are members of the Black Caucus.

Rep. Parmon voted against censure and against expulsion.

Absent from today's special session were Rep. Debbie Clary, a Cherryville Republican; Rep. Linda Coleman, a Knightdale Democrat; Rep. Leo Daughtry, a Smithfield Republican; Rep. Joe Kiser, a Vale Republican; and Rep. Paul Luebke, a Durham Democrat.

Correction: An earlier version of this post misstated Parmon's vote. 

Jones: Censure Wright

Rep. Earl Jones says Rep. Thomas Wright should be censured.

The Greensboro Democrat said today that he will push for censure, and not expulsion, during a special session tomorrow on Wright's ethics charges, David Ingram reports.

"I won't be supporting expulsion. I think there are a lot of problems with it," Jones said. "Expulsion shows no respect for the other democratic processes."

Jones was the first of Wright's colleagues to publicly say that he will not vote for expulsion, arguing that the standard of evidence is too low.

"It should be `beyond a reasonable doubt' or it should be `high crimes and misdemeanors,' " he said, referring to the standard for criminal convictions and, in part, to the standard for removing the U.S. president.

Jones is a member of the Legislative Black Caucus. Earlier reports were that members of the caucus would propose censure.

Legislative Black Caucus meets tomorrow

The Black Caucus will meet tomorrow to discuss Rep. Thomas Wright, reports Tim Boyum of News 14 Carolina:

The Legislative Black Caucus is meeting tomorrow and supposedly Rep. Wright is on their agenda. There have been reports some members want to ask their colleagues to vote for censure instead of kicking him out of office.

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