Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Happy Tuesday!

Well it appears lawmakers are going to do everything they can to wrap up the session and get out of town by the end of the week. The big question remains...will the Gov. sign the budget? He does have the option of not signing it and letting it simply go into law after 10 days which comes Friday.

In the meantime lawmakers are feverishly working on several last minute bills including the drought and gangs. There is a compromise on both that are both expected to pass.

Here's my story today on the gang issue.

RALEIGH -- Lawmakers have compromised on a plan that will officially make street gangs illegal in North Carolina.

Currently there is no law on the books that directly specifically deals with gangs. The legislation still needs final votes from the state house and senate.

Statewide there are an estimated 550 gangs with more than 14,000 members.

"We are at a crisis point in our state we have from all over this state gangs are popping up everywhere," Rep. Tricia Cotham (D-Mecklenburg) said.

Lawmakers hope new proposals will stop gangs from growing even larger. For the first time in state history the plan would make gang activity a crime.
The proposals add new felonies to the law books for gang leaders who take part in gangs and recruit.

"The focus of the legislation is to go after the gang members not necessarily the rank and file gang members but those who are really running the operations through drugs, crimes, recruiting members, those who are in charge," Rep. Cotham added.

"Now we are aware gangs reach down to levels of 8, 9, 10 but the leadership the people who really profit from this that's where we've got to really hit," Rep. Bill Current (R-Gaston) said.

This bill has not been without controversy at the General Assembly. There is some concern it will target minority groups. There is also concerns about age restrictions.

For months, lawmakers argued what age these gang members should face adult charges. One version said 12 years old another said 16. A compromise settled on 15 years old.

After they serve their time the gang portion of their record is erased but any related charges involving weapons or anything else would stay on their record. Supporters say it's about time North Carolina puts gang laws on the books.

"It's so important to the foundation of our society that people feel safe in their homes and walk around and jog and feel safe in their homes," Rep. Current added.

They hope these new proposals with prevention and intervention programs will slow down one of the fastest growing crime problems in the state.
If approved and signed by the governor the law would take effect on December 1st. That means it would only impact crimes that take place on or after that date.

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