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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.

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.

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