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House: Tort bill debated sharply

A bill that would dramatically change how courts consider negligence lawsuits drew sharp debate Wednesday night.

The bill would alter a part of the state tort law that says a person cannot collect any money if they contribute in any way to their injury. The bill would replace that doctrine that allows civil courts to consider the degree to which a person was at fault for his or her own injury. Any judgements awarded would be reduced by that factor.

Rep. Rick Glazier, a Fayetteville Democrat and a sponsor of the bill said a friend of his son's rode home as a passenger in a car driven by an intoxicated person. A car wreck killed the passenger.

"Because he got in the car with him...his family never got a dime," Glazier said. That is unfair. That is fundamentally unfair to every citizen in the state."

Opponents said the bill was an effort to cater to plaintiff's lawyers and that the change is unnecessary. The law could raise insurance rates, opponents said.

"This House has voted this bill down every time since 1983," said Rep. Jim Crawford, an Oxford Democrat.

The bill passed a key vote 67 to 50. It will have to be voted on again before it goes to the Senate.

Update: Later in the session, Rep. Johnathan Rhyne Jr., a Lincolnton Republican, withdrew his objection to taking the final vote on the bill Wednesday. Rhyne said he changed his mind because Glazier agreed to work on some of the oppositions' concerns as it moved through the Senate.

The bill cleared the House 73 to 42 and moves to the Senate.

21 legislators praised for disclosure

A campaign finance reform group has praised 21 legislators for their openness.

Democracy North Carolina identified a group of state lawmakers who are doing "a superior job" identifying occupations and employers of their donors on campaign finance forms.

Though candidates are required to make their best effort to identify all donors, many fall short, listing only names, dates and amounts.

The group singled out legislators who raised more than $15,000 and provided full information on 98 percent or more of donors, including Senate President Marc Basnight and House Speaker Joe Hackney, both Democrats.

From the House: Democrats Tricia Cotham, Jim Crawford, Margaret Dickson, Rick Glazier, Bruce Goforth, Deborah Ross, Russell Tucker, Jennifer Weiss and Verla Insko, and Republican David Lewis.

From the Senate: Democrats Charlie Albertson, Doug Berger, Linda Garrou, Clark Jenkins, A.B. Swindell and Republicans Pete Brunstetter, Neal Hunt, Richard Stevens and Jerry Tillman.

"It's crucial for the public to have the full picture about the candidates before they vote — and the pattern of where a campaign’s money comes from is an important part of that picture," said Kaitlin Stollbrink, an intern at Democracy North Carolina.

Center releases '07 effectiveness rankings

The 2007 effectiveness rankings for the legislature have arrived.

The rankings, conducted by the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research, is based on a survey of state senators and representatives, a dozen capital correspondents and 614 registered lobbyists after the biannual long session.

Senate President Marc Basnight was the most effective senator for a record eighth time in a row. The other most-effective senators were: Tony Rand, David Hoyle, Dan Clodfelter and Linda Garrou.

The five most effective members of the House were House Speaker Joe Hackney, Bill Owens, House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman, Rick Glazier and Jim Crawford.

Rep. Melanie Goodwin made the biggest jump in effectiveness in the House from 73rd in 2005 to 31st in 2007; while Sen. Bill Purcell joined the Senate's Top 10 most effective for the first time.

For the first time, the center asked respondents to consider ethics when ranking effectiveness.

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