There really are teeth in Gov. Beverly Perdue's new proposals to strengthen ethics rules for elected and appointed officials. Some of them are quite sharp indeed, and appropriately so.
For example: Among the governor's ideas is to require state employees who are convicted of corruption to forfeit their pensions. While it's true that every person inclined to be dishonest and capitalize on a public position might not always stop and think because of that risk, some might. Losing a pension would be life-changing, and would directly hurt someone's family.
To do this and to put some of her other suggestions into practice, Perdue will need the cooperation of legislative leaders, specifically Sen. Marc Basnight of Manteo, president pro tem of the state Senate, Sen. Martin Nesbitt, that chamber's majority leader, and House Speaker Joe Hackney. It's safe to assume that the three were well aware of what Perdue, their fellow Democrat, intended to propose before she announced it, so that should be a good sign that action will be taken.
And Republicans in the legislature could help by supporting the strengthening of these rules without putting political opportunism first. Sen. Phil Berger, minority leader, said, "She and Barack Obama are the face of every Democrat on the ballot," perhaps anticipating Republican gains this year and in 2012. Berger is better than that childish comment, and he and his party would be well-received by the public if they could acknowledge that Perdue is trying to do the kinds of things they've urged her to do and vote "aye."
Other notable features of Perdue's proposal include forbidding contractors who do business with the state from contributing to those officials who have a role in awarding contracts. And, she says that high-level state employees should have to wait out a one-year "cooling off" period before going to work for a company or industry they previously regulated. The same would be true for those who wanted to become lobbyists.
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