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Democrats chose replacement for Rep. Bryant

A replacement for state Rep. Angela Bryant was chosen Tuesday morning, according to the Rocky Mount Telegram. Bobbie Richardson, who is director exceptional children services for Vance County schools, was picked by a committee of Nash and Franklin county Democrats.

Angela Bryant picked to fill the late Sen. Jones' seat

Democrat Angela Bryant will return to Raleigh next week as a state senator, not a representative.

The three-term lawmaker from Rocky Mount was selected to fill the vacant 4th District seat after the death of state Sen. Ed Jones last month. A committee of two representatives from each of the five counties in the district picked Bryant.

No money, no travel

The legislature ain't traveling on your dime.

With a deep recession on and budget cuts hitting most areas of state government, lawmakers have curtailed their state-funded travel, according to records released by House Speaker Joe Hackney's office.

The number of House members who filed for reimbursements during in the last year: 0. The number of Senators: 1.

For the record, that was Sen. Ed Jones, a Halifax County Democrat. He billed $936 for his per diem while he was on a January trip to Singapore, Ben Niolet reports. 

That trip was put on by the Public School Forum of North Carolina and UNC's Center for International Understanding and was meant to give eight lawmakers and a handful of education officials insight into what that country does right in science and math education.

Eight lawmakers headed to Singapore

Eight legislators and a handful of state education officials are headed to Singapore in about a week to see what that country does right in math and science education.

The trip will be the second delegation to Singapore in the ten years that the Public School Forum of North Carolina and UNC’s Center for International Understanding have been sending lawmakers and policy shapers to look at other country’s schools, Mark Johnson reports.

The last three trips: Ireland, China and, now, Singapore, have all focused on nations where education and economic development are closely aligned, said John Dornan, the forum’s president.

"Out of nine countries we’ve not seen anybody do what Singapore has done," Dornan said.

Students in Singapore consistently score among the best students in the world in math and science.

The lawmakers headed overseas are Reps. Marvin Lucas of Cumberland county; Tricia Cotham of Charlotte; Tim Moore of Cleveland County; Earline Parmon of Winston-Salem and Sens. Debbie Clary of Cleveland County; John Snow of Cherokee County; Bob Atwater of Chatham County and Ed Jones of Halifax County.

State school board Chairman Bill Harrison and Scott Rawls, president of the N.C. Community College System also are going.

The trip is being funded primarily by a grant from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund with additional money from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, GlaxoSmithKline and SAS. A Glaxo official is joining the trip.

Rand 'blindingly clear'

Sen. Tony Rand is known for his pointed and colorful style. His quips are delivered in a deep, scratchy drawl, and impersonating him is an unofficial sport around the halls of the legislature and at Dome's office.

Over the years, he has provided plenty of memorable lines. "It is blindingly clear," he would often say during floor debates.

Here are some Rand moments:

To Sen. Ed Jones, about Jones' bill this year to regulate possession and handling of venomous snakes: "If we get a cobra loose in Fayetteville, will you come down there and catch it?"

Describing negotiations with prosecutors and defense lawyers over a 2003 bill to require prosecutors to turn all evidence over to defendants: "They argued, they prayed, they kicked, they gouged. ... We bled right smart on it."

Explaining in 2008 that the top issue for then-candidate Barack Obama was not a flag lapel pin but creating jobs, energy independence and solving the problems in the Middle East:

"If we can do those things, you know, he could walk around naked as far as I'm concerned and it would be fine."

Telling why he would not take a question on the state budget in 2008: "Because we're going to adjourn in a few minutes, and that's what it says."

The appointed ones

It's not only possible to become a state legislator without getting elected, but 31 of the 170 members of the legislature have done it.

Those lawmakers first took office after being selected by a small group of their party's leaders and then being appointed by the governor.

Since the current legislative term began in January, six lawmakers have taken office after their predecessor resigned or, in one case, died. A seventh new legislator will be selected soon to replace Sen. David Weinstein, D-Lumberton, who resigned in September. When a lawmaker leaves office early, his or her party leaders select a replacement who is appointed by the governor.


Lost and found: assault rifles

Every agent at the N.C. Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement has a state-issued assault rifle, and two of the expensive and powerful firearms are missing.

"I am extremely concerned about this," said Bill Chandler, the state's ALE director since 2007. "We don't know where the weapons are."

The thefts and an accidental shooting this summer have led to new policies at ALE. At the same time, the incidents have brought attention to the agency's growing arsenal.

With just 104 full-time agents, ALE's primary responsibility is to enforce state laws on the purchase and sale of alcoholic beverages. Though its officers are rarely involved in situations where the use of deadly force is required, ALE is the only state law-enforcement agency to provide every agent with an assault rifle.

"Wow, I didn't know they had those," said Sen. Ed Jones, a Democrat from Enfield who is a retired state trooper. "I'm sitting here trying to think of a good reason to justify why ALE would need that much firepower, but I'm having some trouble." (N&O)

Legislature conference draws 14 from NC

Last week House Speaker Joe Hackney defended his plans to spend some of the week at the National Conference of State Legislatures summit in Philadelphia.

Hackney was one of 10 lawmakers, all Democrats, from the state to register for the summit. Four legislative staff members were registered to go, according to the legislature's controller's office. The state would pay registration, $499 to $625, depending on when the attendee registered. Members were to pay their other expenses.

But on Monday, many on the list to go were not in Philadelphia. Like Hackney, members may move back and forth or just go later in the week, officials said.

The members signed up to go are:

Senate: Dan Blue (D-Raleigh), Charlie Dannelly (D-Charlotte), Katie Dorsett (D-Greensboro), Tony Foriest (D-Graham), Ed Jones (D-Halifax County).

House: Rick Glazier (D-Fayetteville), Hackney (D-Orange County), Phillip Haire (D-Sylva), Larry Hall (D-Durham), Bill Owens (D-Elizabeth City) 

Previously: Expenses minimal for NCSL trip to New Orleans. 

Lyons to join victim assistance board

Mary Lyons, an assistant principal in Edenton who began the push to upgrade the penalty for second-degree murder, has been added to the board of the North Carolina Victim Assistance Network.

Lyons' son was murdered in Winston-Salem three years ago, and her concerns regarding the sentencing of her son's killer caused state Sen. Ed Jones, a Halifax County Democrat, to sponsor legislation this session that would boost sentences for second-degree murder to as much as life without parole, Dan Kane reports. The bill has not passed the legislature.

The network is a 23-year-old nonprofit organization that helps crime victims and their families deal with the justice system and advocates for laws and services that assist crime victims. The network's board has 18 seats. Board president William Hart said Lyons' efforts regarding the second-degree murder penalty issue brought her to the attention of the board.

Snakes on a plain?

Say What?
"If we get a cobra loose in Fayetteville, will you come down there and catch it?"
— Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand to Sen. Ed Jones, who had sponsored a bill to make it a Class I misdemeanor to release a venomous snake into the wild on May 13, 2009. Rand thought that was not tough enough.
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