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Child-welfare advocates concerned about adult/youth justice divisions merging

There is concern by some child-welfare advocates over the decision to merge the adult and juvenile prison sections of the state Department of Public Safety.

The merger was announced Tuesday as part of the consolidation of related state agencies that has been underway since 2011, in addition to more recent directives to find additional savings.

Rob Thompson, executive director of the Covenant with North Carolina’s Children, said Wednesday the merger raises questions about how well the state can focus on teenagers.

“Preventing juvenile crime and rehabilitating youthful offenders demand a different model than adult corrections,” Thompson said in a statement. “We are concerned that the new structure will lead to a decreased emphasis on youth-focused programming.”

Two Correction officials named

Two prison officials have been promoted in the state Department of Public Safety.

Joe Prater will be deputy commissioner for administration and George Solomon will be director of prisons. They were named by Correction Commissioner David Guice.

Prater has been acting prisons director since January, and before that he was assistant section chief for prisons. He spent eight years in community corrections, and before that worked in local government and private sector jobs.

Solomon supervised prisons in the Piedmont and central part of the state, and was also a prison superintendent, deputy warden, assistant chief of security and correctional officer.

Shanahan picks former lawmaker

Former state Rep. David Guice will be the new head of the state Division of Adult Correction. Department of Public Safety Secretary Kieran Shanahan made the hire on Wednesday.

Justice Reinvestment Act is rolling out -- and still largely unfunded

This past session the General Assembly signed off on an ambitious plan to more closely supervise and offenders once they are released from prison, in hopes of keeping them from returning because of minor probation violations. It amounted to the most sweeping rewrite of sentencing laws in two decades.

All well and good, except lawmakers didn’t budget any money to make the Justice Reinvestment Act work.

David Guice, director of the Division of Community Corrections, says he’ll be asking legislators for funding. Meanwhile, he has patched together enough to get the ball rolling.

Just hear him out...

The House membership was antsy Thursday as they plowed through a series of routine bills.

For the legislature, Thursday is their Friday and as soon as the session ended, members could go home for the Easter weekend.

But Thursday was also a big day for Rep. David Guice, a freshman Republican from Brevard, who was pitching a bill to benefit Transylvania County. As Guice explained methodically to his colleagues, the bill would authorize the county to utilize high school students in a trade program to help construct affordable housing for public employees who are being priced out of the market.

House members rustled and murmured as Guice continued to pitch his bill. Finally, Rep. Bill Faison, an Orange County Democrat asked a question.

"Are you aware of any opposition to this bill?" Faison asked, prompting laughter from the floor.

"You know, when you're a freshman and you stand up for the first time," Guice began, prompting more laughter and a little applause.

Guice continued on selling his bill. Eventually Faison asked another question.

"What do you think the odds might be if you stop now you'll get a unanimous vote?"

After more explanation from Guice, the House finally did vote. The bill passed 111 to 1.

Rep. Bill McGee, a Clemmons Republican voted against it. Maybe Guice should have explained his bill more.

The longest commutes in the legislature

Ten state legislators drive more than 500 miles to work.

After Dome learned that Rep. Roger West's 720-mile round trip from Marble to Raleigh is the longest commute, we wondered about the other legislators with long drives:

Sen. John Snow, Murphy, 706 miles
Sen. Joe Sam Queen, Waynesville, 552 miles
Sen. Tom Apodaca, Hendersonville, 550 miles
Sen. Martin Nesbitt, Asheville, 520 miles
Rep. David Guice, Brevard, 582 miles
Rep. Susan Fisher, Asheville, 500 miles
Rep. Bruce Goforth, Asheville, 500 miles
Rep. Carolyn Justus, Hendersonville, 550 miles
Rep. Phil Haire, Sylva, 590 miles

Not surprisingly, all 10 represent the mountains.

The House Class of 2008

The watchword for the House class of 2008 is scandal.

At least four representatives-elect won seats formerly held by legislators who were either retired or defeated because of scandals involving speeding tickets, drunk driving, sexual harassment or campaign donations.

Depending on your definition, the House has 15 or 20 new members. Some of the five who were appointed prior to the election also took the seats of troubled legislators, including disgraced former Speaker Jim Black and Rep. Thomas Wright, the first member expelled since 1880.

Here's a quick look at the representatives-elect:

Hugh Blackwell (R): The Valdese lawyer defeated longtime Rep. Walt Church Sr. after the legislator got a speeding ticket dismissed by the district attorney.

Elmer Floyd (D): The longtime city of Fayetteville human relations director won the former seat of Rep. Mary McAllister, who got in trouble over campaign finance reports.

Nick Mackey (D): A controversial figure in Charlotte, Mackey resigned from the police department while under investigation, then ran for sheriff, but had his election thrown out.

Shirley Randleman (R): The retired longtime Wilkes County clerk of court won the seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Tracy Walker.

Sarah Stevens (R): The Mount Airy lawyer defeated three-term Democrat Rep. Jim Harrell III after a campaign that ridiculed his support of a teapot museum.

James Boles (R): The Southern Pines resident won the seat of retiring Republican Rep. Joe Boylan, who admitted to an alcohol problem after a drunk driving arrest.

Pearl Burris Floyd (R): The Gaston County commissioner will be the first elected black Republican woman in the legislature.

Darrell McCormick (R): The Yadkinville owner of a real estate company fended off a Democratic challenger for the seat of Rep. George Holmes.

Johnathan Rhyne (R): The Lincolnton lawyer had no Democratic opposition in his race for the seat of retiring Republican Rep. Joe Kiser.

Randy Stewart (D): The Rocky Mount resident won a much-contested race for the seat of Republican Rep. Bill Daughtridge, who ran unsuccessfully for state treasurer.

Justin Burr (R): Albemarle defeated Rep. Ken Furr in the primary, who had been appointed to the seat after Rep. David Almond resigned over a personnel complaint.

W. David Guice (R): The Transylvania County commissioner was outspent by a Democratic opponent in the race for the seat of retiring Rep. Trudi Walend.

Grey Mills (R): The Iredell County business owner handily beat a Libertarian opponent for the seat after narrowly edging Republican Rep. Karen Ray in the primary.

Efton Sager (R): The Wayne County commissioner and retired Air Force member won the seat of retiring Republican Rep. Louis Pate.

Jane Whilden (D): The former director of Gov. Mike Easley's Western office, an Asheville resident, won with the help of the state Democratic Party.

In addition, previously appointed Reps. Kelly Alexander Jr. of Charlotte, Angela Bryant of Rocky Mount, Annie Mobley of Ahoskie, Tricia Cotham of Charlotte and Sandra Spaulding Hughes of Wilmington were also elected for the first time in November.

Related: The Senate Class of 2008

Correction: An earlier version of this post misstated details of Mills' win.

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