Monday, March 12, 2007

The peanut question

House Speaker Joe Hackney says the N.C. House of Representatives is a different place now that new ethics rules are in effect and lawmakers have been taking formal – and informal – training on what’s allowed and what’s not.
A test case in point: for years the N.C. Peanut Association has provided free packs of peanuts for lawmakers and guests who visit the speaker’s office. When Rep. Dewey Hill called Hackney a few weeks ago to make sure it was still okay, Hackney told the N.C. Editorial Writers Conference Sunday in Chapel Hill, he started thinking out loud: They employ a lobbyist, don’t they? And wouldn’t the peanuts would be just the sort of gift the new ethics laws or the no-gift register are designed to prohibit?
Well, maybe not. The N.C. Peanut Association, it turns out, does not employ a lobbyist. And, Hackney says, “The peanuts have arrived.” But they haven’t been consumed. “I’m the speaker and they are in the speaker’s office.” But Hackney is still figuring out what to do. Should he send a check to pay for them? Hackney says he doesn’t yet know how it’s going to turn out. “It’s a part of our healing process that we are going through,” Hackney says.
There has been some concern, he noted, that members might find it difficult to parse through all the new rules. No one wants to get caught up in some problem, but in the main, he said, the new rules have been well-received.
The same kind of thing has gone on in the Senate. At a Mecklenburg delegation meeting last week, a group of citizens asking for county authority to impose a ban on smoking in restaurants brought coffee mugs for every legislator. At the close of the meeting, however, delegation chairman Sen. Dan Clodfelter reminded members that the mugs might represent the sort of gift the new rules prohibit.
I didn’t count every one, but it appeared to me that the mugs were left behind on the table as lawmakers adjourned.


David McKnight said...


Don't let The News & Observer find out about this. If the Raleigh Roughhouse Rodeo Riders catch wind of this, first thing you know there will be a headline in The N&O blaring out:

"Peanut Scandal Dogs Speaker's Office: Will Legislators Wind Up 'Shelling Out' Goodies?

A. Simmons said...

It's just a gift, jeez. Just "double-gift" and donate them to a food bank/homeless shelter.

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