04/08/09 — No decision by Tucker yet on Duplin bill

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No decision by Tucker yet on Duplin bill

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on April 8, 2009 1:46 PM

The jury is still out on a bill now sitting in a House committee headed up by state Rep. Russell Tucker, D-Duplin, that would require a seventh member on the Duplin school board and county commission.

Currently Senate Bill 550 is sitting in the House Local Government II Committee, where Tucker serves as a vice chairman.

Sen. Charlie Albertson, D-Duplin, sponsored two bills to stop tie votes. He said both boards have problems with unity among their members, and cited a study he commissioned recently that showed a picture of Duplin as a county whose leaders are constantly bickering.

The senator's two bills would attack the problem from two different directions -- one by keeping the same number of board members but forcing odd votes and the other by creating an odd number of board members.

S207 would silence the chairmen except in the event of a tie vote by the other members present. Both boards have six members.

S550 would add another member, thereby forcing odd votes that way.

If the seventh board member bill were to pass the House, it would become law effective the first Monday in December 2010. The other six members would still be elected to staggered terms, but the at-large seventh member would then be elected every four years.

Tucker has said that he is still open to comments from county residents and that he is taking a tally of responses to the bill via telephone at 715-3021 and by e-mail at russellt@ncleg.net.

He got a lot of calls and e-mails last weekend and expects many more now that the bill is in the House.

"And that is fine. I want to hear from them," he said.

So far, he said, the majority of comments have been against the seventh board member. He said more than 300 residents have told him they oppose the bill, while about 70 have said they like it.

He added that an overwhelming majority have also said they don't like the idea of keeping the chairmen from voting unless there is a tie.

Among the responses Tucker has received included letters from both boards opposing both bills.

County Commissioner David Fussell said the appropriate time to make changes in the boards would be through redistricting after the next census, which will occur in 2010.

"(Albertson) should have talked to us before introducing these bills," he said during a joint meeting with the school board.

There has got to be a better way, agreed school board member Reginald Kenan.

"Local leaders are the ones who should be discussing how the boards are made up," he said. "Both boards and the community should make that decision."