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New Bern native, ECU grad drops $97 million on two losing Senate bids

One of the biggest losers on Tuesday was Eastern North Carolina native Linda E. McMahan who spent $97 million losing to Senate races in Connecticut.

McMahan, 64, grew up Linda Edward in New Bern and graduated from East Carolina University, later making a fortune with her husband promoting professional wrestling.

She lost to Democratic Congressman Christopher Murphy on Tuesday after losing in 2010 to Democrat Richard Blumenthal.

Two states slower than N.C.

North Carolina's new budget may be late - more than a month after the new fiscal year began - but at least it's not last.

In voting this week to approve the budget, North Carolina lawmakers managed to finish their budget work before their counterparts in Connecticut and Pennsylvania, according to a spokeswoman for the National Conference of State Legislatures.

As a result, Connecticut is facing the prospect of having its bond rating downgraded, and Pennsylvania is resorting to a partial budget so that state employees can be paid.

Advocates: Don't execute mentally ill

A coalition of advocates for the mentally ill and a state Superior Court judge spoke in favor today of legislation that would exclude the severely mentally ill from the death penalty.

Draft legislation introduced at a joint legislative committee today would allow a judge to determine that a defendant suffered from severe mental illness at the time of the killing. The defendant would still face a murder trial, but the worst punishment would be life without parole, Dan Kane reports.

Advocates of the legislation say it would only apply to those with severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, or from severe brain injuries. Those whose criminal acts were the result of drug or alcohol abuse would not be eligible.

"We're talking about individuals whose distortion of thinking is so severe that it's difficult for us to imagine," said James Ellis, a University of New Mexico law professor who successfully argued to the U.S. Supreme Court several years ago that the mentally retarded should not be executed.

More after the jump.

Moore: Pension fund down, but solid

Richard Moore says the state's pension fund is solid.

In an interview with the N&O, the outgoing state treasurer said the state's portfolio dropped from $72.3 billion in value at the end of June to $65.9 billion as of Sept. 30.

The portfolio secures pension funds for nearly 900,000 people in the state and local government retirement system, Rob Christensen reports.

"State pensioners should not be concerned about their checks," Moore said. "We will finish this year in an overfunded status. We will be one of the top-performing pension plans in the country this year. But we have lost money. We have lost a lot."

Because the state has long had a conservative investment policy — about half the assets are in fixed-income investments such as bonds — the state's losses were far less dramatic than in many investment funds.

The state pension fund was down 12 percent for the year ending Sept. 30, compared with the S&P 500, which was down 24 percent, Moore said.

North Carolina is one of three states — the others are New York and Connecticut — where an elected state official has sole responsibility for investment of the state's pension fund.

Gay marriage amendment died in N.C.

A constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage has repeatedly died in the legislature.

At least ten bills by sponsored by Republicans and sometimes co-sponsored by Democrats have been introduced in the state House and Senate in recent years.

All would call for a statewide referendum on adding wording to Article 14 of the state constitution defining marriage as "the union of one man and one woman at one time."

Gay marriage is already illegal in North Carolina. A state law passed in 1871 defines marriage as a union between man and woman, while another passed in 1996 deems same-sex marriages invalid.

However, state Republicans argue that the laws — unlike a constitutional amendment — could be overturned by a state judge. That has happened in California, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

After the jump, the bills that have died in committee.

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