Rep. John Blust (R-Guilford) writes passionately about the need for reform in the General Assembly with the following, excerpted from an email exchange:
After all of the recent developments, legislators should feel a deep sense of obligation to take strong actions to change things in the North Carolina legislature and throughout state government. I propose the following measures, none of which give any advantage to either party and all of which I would wager would be overwhelmingly backed by the people of North Carolina:
1) New rules in each chamber decentralizing power – and require that rules must be followed without exception, except by leave of the full body (the ability to except from the rules when desired is the source of much of the mischief – when there is a compelling need to suspend a rule, the full membership should have a say, and the rules provide for this suspension).
2) Ban lobbyists from soliciting funds for legislators (why should a Don Beason be able to dump all kinds of money on certain legislators at the drop of a hat and get the outcomes he desires?). The big money comes not from the individual lobbyist (which last session’s law banned) but from contributions of several people affiliated with the lobbyist’s principal who give at the lobbyist’s direction.
3) Place the Legislature under the independent State Ethics Commission through the recommendation of any punishment (we will never adequately police ourselves – especially when a higher-up member is implicated).
4) Open ethics process from beginning to end (H1111 passed late Thursday still allows closed proceedings through the "probable cause" phase, which will very likely not be found if the legislator involved is on "my team" as Black put it).
5) Prohibit legislators from influencing the hiring of lobbyists by principals (there is no need for testimonials from legislators on Don Beason’s web site).
6) Limit the contribution of political parties to the same $4000 as other entities to close the loophole by which hundreds of thousands of dollars can be dumped in some Senate and House races.
7) Term limits for the Speaker and President Pro Tem. Every announced candidate for Speaker after Black decided not to run last December publicly backed this proposal, yet it was not allowed even a committee hearing.
8) Independent re-districting commission that must follow strict criteria for formulating districts.(it offends any decent notion of a republican form of government for politicians to be able to shamelessly stack the deck in their own favor and deprive the people of the ability to chose who governs them).
Every one of these measures needs to be voted up or down in each chamber in the short session so voters know before November 2008 who is serious about reforms and who will allow for business as usual. The rules can certainly be suspended to allow these measures to be voted on in the short session next May. Legislative leaders who block votes on these type of reform measures should not be credited with being reformers (in fact, there will not be adequate reform until it is impossible for a small handful of legislators to block action on bills).The bills passed by the legislature so far do not go to the core of what Black, Beason and others have done. It is unseemly for candidates for leadership to be trying to out-bid one another to buy the votes of some of the loser members who sell their votes like some sort of commodity.
There is something terribly, terribly wrong with the General Assembly as an institution if it can be prevented from even considering and voting on important reforms in wake of all the revelations about public corruption so far with even more revelations and charges probable in the future. The fact that there has been so little reform so far is an indication that the basic problem which the whole Black affair has revealed is still extant. Why is there so much institutional resistance to fixing this problem?
…to which Jack Hawke, President of Civitas had the following reply:
You are right on point…keep up the good work. I personally have some problems with reducing political parties to the level of one PAC and further eroding the strength of our parties. Perhaps the biggest problem in the Republican delegation is […] a weak party without any clout or influence … and you propose reducing it even further I’ll be happy to express my feelings to you if you are interested.