In Other News...(8-26-05)
Historic Joint Session Names New State Superintendent
A historic joint session of the State House and Senate gave Democrat June Atkinson the title of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Lawmakers voted 93-21 to select Atkinson. Despite Atkinson’s lead of 8,535 votes out of more than 3.3 million ballots cast in last November’s election, legal challenges from her Republican opponent kept the state without a schools chief for nine months. The state constitution directs that contested statewide races be finalized “by joint ballot of both houses of the General Assembly in the manner prescribed by law”; however, the law that governed such voting was inadvertently deleted from state statute in 1971 and had to be clarified by legislation passed earlier this year. The General Assembly had not selected a winner for statewide office since North Carolina law was changed in 1835 to allow citizens to directly elect a governor. Atkinson was immediately sworn into office, bringing to an end the last undecided statewide or federal race in the nation following last year’s election.
Unfinished Business: House wants Senate to take action before adjourning
House members are hopeful that the Senate will vote on several bills already approved in their chamber including: the establishment of an innocence commission (HB 1323), which would create an independent panel to review the innocence claims of convicted felons; DWI task force recommendations (HB 1048), which would improve enforcement and conviction rates of DWIs in North Carolina; an increase in the state’s minimum wage from $5.15 to $6 per hour; and a tax credit for small businesses that provide health care insurance for employees (HB 20); the Gang Violence Prevention Act (HB 50).