Leading from the Left

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Good Bye and Good Riddance

Well, it's finally over. Former Speaker Jim Black has resigned and will plead guilty today to a charge of accepting 'gratuities.' I for one am glad to see this affair end. Black seriously damaged the reputation of the NC State House and should have left earlier.

One legislator told me the other day that she feels like "a dark cloud has finally lifted." Perhaps now the General Assembly can refocus it's attention on issues that matter to the people: mental health reform, adopting energy and climate change policies, land conservation, teacher pay, and education.

I suppose the silver lining in all this is that the Black scandal embarrassed the legislature into passing reasonably strong ethics and lobbying reform legislation.

Additionally, the scandal forced Black to step aside as speaker and paved the way for the election of a new speaker, Orange County's Joe Hackney. Hackney is clean as a whistle. His election as Speaker helps clear the way for a new, more transparent State House and we'll all be better for it.

The most striking example that a new day has arrived for the House came this week when committee assignments were announced. Roughly 40% of the new committee chairs are women. Women make up only 34% of the Democrats in the State House, so clearly Hackney has gone out of his way to put women in strong leadership roles. While it's unfortunate that no women were selected for upper-echelon leadership positions (Speaker, Caucus Leader, Majority Leader), Hackney's committee assignments help position women to move up to those key positions next time.