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House votes to furlough itself, judiciary

The House approved a bill Thursday that would extend furloughs that are the equivalent of half percent pay cuts to include legislative and judiciary employees.

Gov. Beverly Perdue ordered the furloughs last month after learning that the state was short an additional $1 billion. The state constitution separates the branches of government and Perdue's order applied to the executive branch.

"The separation of powers sort of says she doesn't have any control over the legislature to do this," said Rep. Mickey Michaux, a sponsor of the bill.

The bill also seeks to ensure that retirement contributions and other benefits are unaffected by the furloughs.

Rep. Larry Womble, a Winston-Salem Democrat, said he was concerned that the legislature wasn't trying to spare lower-income employees from sacrifice.

"I don't believe it's fairness when it comes to this if you include janitors, maids, the dishwasher, the person who mows the grass, the one who cleans the bathrooms and mops the halls and clearns our offices," Womble said.

The bill moves now moves to the Senate.

Are lunch breaks broken?

It's not good manners to gobble your food, but some kids have no choice when they're at school because their lunch periods are so short.

Legislators who aren't so much worried about etiquette as they are about poor health want the State Board of Education to find out how long schools give students to eat lunch, Lynn Bonner reports.

State guidelines call for half-hour lunch periods, said Rep. Doug Yongue, one of the bill sponsors, but schools routinely set aside less time, with 17-minute lunch breaks reported in some high schools. He said that speed eating contributes to obesity and diabetes.

The House Education Committee passed the bill oday at Yongue's request.

"We need to see if we can do better than 17 minutes," said Rep. Larry Womble.

Recent House bills

Recent House bills of note:

H.B. 661: City Managers on School Boards, Rep. Ray Warren

H.B. 677: Require a "First in Flight" Background, Reps. Lucy Allen, Lorene Coates, Nelson Cole and Becky Carney

H.B. 691: State Contracts/Slavery Profits, Reps. Larry Womble, Earl Jones, Annie Mobley and Earline Parmon

H.B. 708: Furlough of State Employees, Reps. Ray Rapp, Rick Glazier and Margaret Dickson

H.B. 711: Sales Tax Fairness Act, Reps. Winkie Wilkins and Dale Folwell

H.B. 724: Open Records Attorneys' Fees, Reps. George Cleveland and Curtis Blackwood

Quick Hits

* A proposed ban on sending text messages while driving, already watered down from the original proposal, is struggling in the legislature.

* The Arc of North Carolina says Gov. Beverly Perdue's budget "could have been worse" for the mental health and developmental disability community.

* Democratic Rep. Larry Womble of Winston-Salem wants companies that do business with the state to disclose their historical ties to slavery.

* Republican National Committee member Ada Fisher thinks chairman Michael Steele should step down, but she's not happy her e-mail was leaked.

Legislature honors black history week

Black history week came to the legislature with a shout.

Legislators from both chambers met this afternoon in the Senate to hear from The Healing Force, a Winston-Salem-based song and storytelling troupe.

Founded in 1975, the husband-and-wife team of Joseph and Gail Anderson — and later their son and daughter — perform traditional African storytelling and music. They were invited by Gail's classmate, Rep. Larry Womble, for a belated recognition of black history month.

After performing a traditional West African song, they introduced themselves to lawmakers with a classic African call-and-response that made the usual "the chair recognizes the gentleman from Cumberland County" seem wan by comparison.

"Thank you so much for having us come and share with you. We are the Healing Force. My name is Gail, but everybody calls me Mama Gail 'cause I'm the mama," said Gail Anderson. "Can you say 'Good afternoon, Mama Gail?'"

The legislators responded with verve. Son Karim Anderson then asked to be greeted with "Ehhhh Karim," while daughter Sonji Gardner asked for "Heyyyy Son....ji."

But the most energetic response was for Joseph Anderson, who was greeted with "Hey-heeeyyy hey Baba Joseph."

Dome looks forward to Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton recognizing "Baba" Tony Rand soon.

The Healing Force

More House bills

A few notable House bills filed:

H.B. 132: Jury Duty Tax Deduction, Rep. Timothy Spear

H.B. 133: Prudent Management of Institutional Funds, Rep. Deborah Ross

H.B. 134: Assault State or Local Officer or Employee, Rep. Russell Tucker

H.B. 135: Broadband Service Providers, Reps. Bill Faison, Joe Tolson, Phil Haire and Thom Tillis

H.B. 137: Capital Procedure / Severe Mental Disability, Reps. Verla Insko, Pricey Harrison, Larry Womble and Paul Luebke

H.B. 149: Require Arts Educ. Credit for Graduation, Reps. Becky Carney, Rick Glazier, Alma Adams and Linda Johnson

H.B. 154: Appoint State Superintendent, Rep. Leo Daughtry

H.B. 155: Appoint State School Superintendent, Reps. Haire, Harold Brubaker, Johnson and Marvin Lucas

The Tobacco Caucus

Which legislators have tobacco companies in their districts?

With the General Assembly again considering enacting a smoking ban in restaurants and workplaces, Dome decided to see who represents the tobacco firms.

Alternative Brands, Mocksville:
Rep. Julia Howard, Sen. Andrew Brock

Commonwealth Brands, Reidsville:
Rep. Nelson Cole, Sen. Phil Berger

Lorillard, Greensboro:
Rep. Maggie Jeffus, Sen. Don Vaughan

Philip Morris, Concord:
Rep. Jeff Barnhart, Sen. Fletcher Hartsell

Reynolds American, Winston-Salem:
Rep. Larry Womble, Sen. Linda Garrou

Reynolds American, Tobaccoville:
Rep. Dale Folwell, Sen. Pete Brunstetter

In the 2007 session, Reps. Howard, Jeffus, Barnhart and Womble voted for a smoking ban in public places, while Reps. Cole and Folwell voted against it.

Yet more House bills from day two

Several more House bills were filed this afternoon:

H.B. 21: Eugenics Program - Support and Education, Reps. Larry Womble, Ronnie Sutton, Earline Parmon and Martha Alexander

H.B. 22: Enhance Youth Employment Protections, Reps. Jennifer Weiss, Melanie Wade Goodwin, Paul Luebke, Angela Bryant

H.B. 23: Strengthen Child Labor Violation Penalties, Reps. Weiss, Luebke, Bryant and Goodwin

H.B. 24: Funds for Cochlear Implants / CASTLE, Rep. Verla Insko

H.B. 25: Clarify SCFAC Appointments, Rep. Insko

H.B. 26: Stay Beach Plan Rates, Deductible Surcharges, Reps. Timothy Spear, Carolyn Justice

Bill would compensate sterilization victims

Larry WombleA bill filed today would give victims of the state's sterilization program $20,000 each.

The legislation, filed by four House Democrats, would make one-time cash payments to the estimated 2,000 to 2,800 North Carolinians sterilized by a state eugenics program that ran from 1929 through the 1970s.

The total cost could be between $40 and $56 million.

Rep. Larry Womble, a Winston-Salem Democrat and one of the primary sponsors, said that he expects a lot of resistance from legislators worried about the state's potential $2 billion shortfall. But he said compensation is the right thing to do.

"The state committed a wrong against innocent people," he said. "This was worse than Nazi Germany."

A working committee came up with the figure on its own, since it could not find any similar compensation efforts to model. Womble said that he considers it far too low, but it was the best they could do.

"There is no amount of money that can restore their dignity or replace what the state took away from them," he said. "Their bloodline has been cut. They cannot continue their family name because the state did this horrific thing to the insides of their bodies." 

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