Tuesday, May 20, 2008

*update with quotes below*

Couple interesting notes from today's Rules Committee in the NC Senate.

That committee is powerful and can send bills directly to the floor. They took up the Street Gang Prevention Act today and approved it.

Coincidentally that is a huge issue GOP Gov candidate Pat McCrory has been pushing and criticizing the legislature about for not taking it up.

The Senate has sat still on the bill. It just so happens that McCrory has plans to come lobby the bill on Wednesday (as in tomorrow).

The Lt. Gov. staff (who just happens to be McCrory's opponent) made sure to make a public statement that Lt. Gov. Perdue supports the legislation.

Sen. Rand who chairs the committee said it's not politics and it was fast tracked because they had to with money in the bill that needs to be in the budget both chambers are working on now.

You be the judge.

Speaking of that, Sen. Rand said it's his belief the House will roll out its version of the budget next week.

Stay tuned.

**here's my story from today on the subject

RALEIGH -- The war on gangs has become a focus for the candidates for governor.

State Senate leaders put anti-gang legislation on the fast track toward approval Tuesday. It comes just one day before one gubernatorial candidate planned to lobby against his opponent on the issue.

Last July, the State House passed a bill defining gangs in state law for the first time. Nearly a year later, it appears the Senate will do the same this week.

"It certainly is a long time coming," Sen. Malcolm Graham (D-Mecklenburg) said. "Gang activity across the state of North Carolina is increasing. We need to make sure that we have legislation in place that protects the citizens and that's what we did here today."

The bill defines a gang, makes it a felony to belong to one, and will target gang leaders. The Senate and House must still settle differences over punishing gang members under 16.

The bill was pushed through one of the few committees that can fast track a bill to the Senate floor. It's also just one day before gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory is scheduled to be in Raleigh.

The current Charlotte mayor plans to lobby lawmakers Wednesday to pass gang legislation.

Tuesday the staff of his opponent Lieutenant Governor Beverly Perdue made a point to speak before the committee voted.

"This legislation is one of the lieutenant governor's top priorities for the coming legislative session," Perdue's Chief of Staff Don Hobart said. "We're very pleased the committee has agreed to take it up quickly and hopefully it will find itself into conference and in law. "

Committee Chair Tony Rand says the meeting was not about politics.

"It has to do with we're trying to get the budget passed and we're trying to adjourn and this has to move forward as you know the provision in this it doesn't go into effect unless there's money in the budget so we're trying to do it together," Sen. Rand (D-Cumberland) said.

The full Senate could vote on the bill as soon as Wednesday. Supporters hope for final approval next week.

A recent report shows there are nearly 15,000 gang members in North Carolina. That's up from an estimated nine thousand just four years ago.

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