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Amended drug testing bill gets O.K. from Senate

An amendment strengthened support for a bill that requires drug testing of any Work First recipient suspected of being a drug user.

The bill, House Bill 392, passed the Senate Wednesday in a 43-6 vote. It would also enhance background checks to ensure federal benefit recipients aren't parole or probation violators, or have outstanding warrants. The bill now goes back to the House for concurrence.

Sen. Thom Goolsby, a Wilmington Republican, amended the bill to, among several things, specify that the drug tests would remain confidential and refer people who test positive to available treatment resources. The amendment was drafted with the help of the N.C. Department of Justice and the State Bureau of Investigation.

Racial Justice Act repeal progresses

A complete repeal of the Racial Justice Act has just one final hurdle – a vote by the full House – following a subcommittee’s approval of the bill along party lines Wednesday morning.

Sen. Thom Goolsby, a Republican from Wilmington who is spearheading the drive to resume executions in North Carolina, sparred with House Democrats on the judiciary subcommittee over the same arguments that have comprised this debate since the Racial Justice Act was enacted in 2009.

Racial Justice Act supporters muster opposition to repeal

Death penalty opponents are planning a news conference to muster opposition to legislation that would repeal the Racial Justice Act and resume executions.

North Carolina Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty will gather with sympathetic lawmakers and people whose relatives have been murdered. The news conference will be Wednesday in the statehouse.

Earlier this month, a repeal bill backed by the Senate leadership – SB306 – was the subject of a news conference by its primary sponsor, Sen. Thom Goolsby, a Republican from Wilmington.

The 2009 Racial Justice Act allowed convicted murderers to petition to have their sentences reduced to life in prison by using statistics to prove racial bias in their trials. Last session, the General Assembly gutted the law by severely restricting how statistics can be used.

This bill would do away with the RJA altogether. Supporters of the original law say the statistics demonstrate flaws in the state’s capital punishment system.

Sunshine bill would disclose more state workers' personnel records

Capping off Sunshine Week, state Sen. Thom Goolsby has filed a bill that would pry open substantial personnel records of state workers.

SB332 would make public the reason that any state employee is fired, suspended, demoted or transferred, as well as promoted. Currently, only the reason for a promotion is public.

The Wilmington Republican’s bill would require a general description for the reason for the change in job status. It would also make employees’ job performance a public record.

The State Employees Association of North Carolina was quick to condemn the proposal, calling it “one big bad idea.” SEANC, in an emailed newsletter sent out Friday, said, “The bill would serve no legitimate purpose; it simply would create a forum for gossip and potential lawsuits.”

GOP bill would repeal Racial Justice Act once and for all

Resurrecting last session’s bruising battle over the death penalty in North Carolina, a Republican state senator on Wednesday filed a bill to wipe all traces of the Racial Justice Act off the books.

The 2009 law allowed statistics compiled statewide to be used to prove racial bias in the prosecution, jury selection or sentencing in capital cases. But prosecutors and Republican legislators contended the law was a smokescreen to prevent all executions by using broad statistics that didn’t have anything to do with individual cases.

Bill would ban straight-party voting, X follows Z except after M

Four representatives have filed a bill to eliminate straight-party ticket voting. The legislation, House Bill 185, filed Thursday, would also establish an interesting way of listing candidates on the ballot. Currently, candidates are simply listed alphabetically within each party.

HB185 would put at the top of the ballot the party of the current governor, followed by the other parties in alphabetical order.

But when there are multiple seats up for election -- now pay attention -- "the names of the candidates of that party shall appear in alphabetical order by party beginning with the letter of the alphabet that the governor's last name begins with, then returning to the letter A after the letter Z."

Got that?

Sponsors are Republican freshmen Rep. Susan Martin of Wilson, Rep. Debra Conrad of Winston-Salem and Rep. Bob Steinburg of Edenton, and second-term Rep. Bert Jones of Reidsville, also a Republican.

A bill in the Senate by second-term Sen. Buck Newton, a Republican who represents Johnston, Nash and Wilson counties, and Sen. Thom Goolsby, a Republican from Wilmington, simply proposes to do away with straight-party voting.

New legislation targets sex trafficking

Sen. Thom Goolsby, a Republican from Wilmington, has introduced a bill cracking down on sex trafficking.

His SB122 would require convicted sex traffickers to report to law enforcement after they are released from prison, and register as sex offenders. They would also have to wear GPS devices.

Goolsby contends North Carolina is one of the top 10 states for sex trafficking. He is planning a related follow-up bill, titled “Safe Harbor.”

“I was shocked when I learned that one in four runaways are involved in sex trafficking within 48 hours of being on the streets,” Goolsby said in a news release. “The war against sex trafficking has begun.” .

Yoga teacher, mom, independent voter -- oh, and Sen. Goolsby's wife

By the way, here's Thom Goolsby's latest response in the ad wars over women's health that he's engaged in with Democratic opponent Deb Butler. Goolsby calls on his wife and daughters to counter the charge that his vote on the abortion ultrasound bill means he is bad for women's health issues.

And here's what Goolsby thinks of Butler

Things are getting heated down there in Wilmington, where Republican incumbent state Sen. Thom Goolsby and Democratic challenger Deb Butler have gone head-to-head in a debate and now in dueling TV ads.

Butler’s now infamous abortion wand ad – which made the national blogs – follows a spot by Goolsby that aired Tuesday tying Butler to the Occupy movement, for having taken federal stimulus money, and favoring raising taxes.

“Is Deb Butler too risky? Too liberal?” the ad asks.

Sen. Goolsby's opponent highlights "transvaginal wand" in new TV ad

Incumbent state Sen. Thom Goolsby’s Democratic opponent in the general election, Deb Butler, has fired a broadside at the Republican incumbent with a visually frank TV ad. As her campaign says, it may be the first appearance of a transvaginal ultrasound wand in a political ad ever.

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