02/14/07 — Area lawmakers say they aren't surprised by news about Black

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Area lawmakers say they aren't surprised by news about Black

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on February 14, 2007 1:51 PM

As word of state Rep. Jim Black's anticipated guilty plea began to filter out Tuesday night and this morning, state House representatives from Wayne and the surrounding counties were disappointed, they said, but not surprised.

"If it had happened two months ago, I would have said yes (I was surprised)," Rep. Russell Tucker, D-Duplin, said. "But there's been enough done and said and not said, that when I heard it I was not surprised."

Freshman Rep. Van Braxton, D-Lenoir, also said that this sort of ending to the Black saga had more or less been expected.

"I had heard the rumors and I had noticed he was not given any chairmanships of any committees," he said. "I'm not too surprised."

Because of that lack of surprise, nobody expects the news to have a lasting impact on the legislature.

"It's effect has already been done," Rep. Larry Bell, D-Sampson, said. "I think last year when we didn't know what was going on there was more apprehension. I don't see where it's going to have any effect. It wasn't really a big surprise to everybody. It was sort of expected. It was just a matter of how it was going to turn out."

And so far this morning, he continued, people have been focused on the jobs at hand.

"I don't think it'll disrupt the General Assembly any," Tucker said. "While his seat will be empty for a while, Mecklenburg County will fill it and while they do, we'll continue working and moving along."

"It's very sad that this has turned out the way it has," Rep. Louis Pate, R-Wayne, said. "It's sad to me that this sort of thing could happen, but this is life and things do happen.

"I think this probably is a lesson for us to not let our elected positions go to our heads. In our final analysis, we answer to the people and we're here to do the people's business and that's all.

"As long as everybody's determined to be honest and do the people's business, we'll be OK."

The effects of Black's actions will linger, however, as legislators and lobbyists continue to deal with the new ethics rules passed in 2006, mostly in response to his scandals.

"It'll probably call more attention to the ethics legislation we adopted last year and the need for it," Tucker said.

But Braxton added, "I think the ethics reform is working very well. The rules are very strict. I don't believe anything else needs to be done."

Despite the black eye, legislators said they do hope people will remember some of the good things Black was able to accomplish -- especially in terms of the state's schools.

"I would hope people will remember some of the good things he has done," Tucker said. "He pushed for education and he did a lot of good things for education. Every time he opened his mouth, education was coming out."

In the end, though, Braxton added, it was just a matter of power corrupting.

"It's unfortunate," he said. "I think he did a lot of good for the state. Sometimes people just get power and make some bad decisions, but he was an effective speaker and I wish him the best.

"Now I think we need to just move on and get down to work for the people of North Carolina."