#ncga: Technically Incorrect.

The General Assembly has a procedure called “technical corrections.”  It’s sort of like a proofreading session. Grammatical errors in legislation are corrected.  Factual errors in legislation are corrected.  The i’s are dotted, and the t’s are crossed. dl

It appears that House Rules chairman – and Dunn legislator — David Lewis (R) may have abused the technical corrections process when, at 3 AM, he deleted a provision from approved legislation that would have cost one of his BIG contributors a lot of money.  The Insider has the big picture story: 

[…] State Rep. David Lewis of Dunn took significant steps in this year’s legislative session to protect the state contract of a friend and campaign donor.

For years, Martin Edwards & Associates of Linden, whose president is Rickie Day, has held a state contract to tow, store and sell vehicles seized from repeat driving while impaired offenders. Lewis’ actions this year – including tucking language into a technical corrections bill that became law in the final minutes of the session – ensured that contracts for those services would continue to be bid out to the private sector when they expire next year.

Lewis’ legislative actions went against a state agency that has expressed interest in taking over the program because state officials believe they can return more money to local schools – at least $250,000 a year – according to preliminary estimates. By law, some of the program’s proceeds go to school districts.

Day donated $5,000 to Lewis’ campaign earlier this year, $100 shy of the maximum contribution, according to reports filed with the N.C. State Board of Elections.

Lewis, a Republican who is chairman of the powerful House Rules committee, said his actions had nothing to do with Day’s contribution. He said he believes private contractors can do the work more effectively than the State Surplus Property Agency, part of the Department of Administration, which has considered taking the program in parts of the state, including Day’s territory.[…] 

First, sources tell us that Lewis spent an inordinate amount of time badgering mid-level management  at the Department of Administration to just go ahead and give Day the contract.  *Never mind that the House had already expressed its wishes with a vote.*    

Second, his statement of affection for the free market is curious.  THIS is the same David Lewis who provided the ONLY Republican vote in the House in favor of accepting federal funds to set up an ObamaCare exchange in North Carolina.  

MORE: images-6

[…] Money for school districts across the state is at stake in the dispute over the seized vehicle contracts.

Aside from officials in two state agencies, at least one other Republican House member believes the Surplus Property Agency can return more money to schools.

“It doesn’t belong being contracted out,” said Rep. George Cleveland, an Onslow County Republican. “It costs the state money that should be going to education.”

Lewis acknowledged he protected Day’s state work.

“Throw me in the briar patch,” he said. “Accuse me of trying to fight for my folks. I’m OK with that.” […]

Boo-freakin-Hoo.   Let’s dig a little deeper to find out how this “constituent service” went down:

[…] Cleveland filed a bill in mid-March that would have hurt Day’s business. The bill authorized the Surplus Property Agency to store, process, maintain and sell cars seized by authorities because of offenses including impaired driving while license revoked. Currently, Day’s company has the contract for the eastern part of the state, and Eastway Wrecker Service Inc. in Charlotte has the contract for the western part.

On March 31, the House Regulatory Reform Committee signed off on Cleveland’s bill, sending it to the Finance Committee. On April 1, Lewis’ campaign received a $5,000 contribution from Day, according to campaign reports. The next day, Lewis added a “serial referral” to the Rules committee, which Lewis chairs, meaning the bill would have to be considered there, too.

For the remainder of the session, the bill didn’t go anywhere.sheldon

Okay, let’s make sure we’re all following along here.  One day, a House committee approves legislation snatching state business from Day.  The very next day, Lewis’s campaign gets a $5000 check from Day.  The very next day, Lewis used his legislative muscle to move the bill that so concerned Day into his committee’s jurisdiction  — where it would be killed and buried to never again see the light of day.  MORE: 

But Cleveland, chairman of the General Government budget subcommittee, inserted language from the bill into the state budget. The language would transfer oversight of the seized vehicle program from the Department of Public Instruction to the Department of Administration. It also allowed the Surplus Property Agency to deal with seized vehicles itself rather than contracting out the services. The General Assembly approved the budget Sept. 18.

Okay. So, at that point, Cleveland’s legislation was APPROVED by the full House.  The lower chamber HAD SPOKEN. But apparently Lewis was not done:

Less than two weeks later, behind closed doors and with no public discussion, Lewis, who is a top lieutenant of House Speaker Tim Moore, inserted a provision into a technical corrections bill deleting the budget language that allowed the state agency to provide the services.

As a result of Lewis’ legislative change, contracts for seized vehicle services will be bid out again to private contractors when the existing contracts expire in February. Lewis said he wanted the language removed because he believed it implied that the General Assembly wanted the state to do the seized vehicle work.

Um, THEY DID.  That’s what the General Assembly approved when it approved the budget.

[…] The technical corrections bill, Senate Bill 119, was approved at 4:12 a.m. Sept. 30, a few minutes before the 2015 session ended.

Cleveland said he was surprised.

“In my last conversation with Mr. Lewis, I thought what was done in the budget was acceptable, and obviously it wasn’t,” he said.

The Insider also dug into the campaign finance angle of the story:

[…] Day’s $5,000 donation was the largest individual contribution Lewis received in the first half of 2015 and the first Day had given to Lewis. Lewis has “done a lot of good things here for Harnett County” and is a “good friend,” Day said in a phone interview. Day has given to other state and federal candidates in the past, records show.

That’s interesting too.  Apparently, Bob Etheridge is a good friend, too. Day gave $4000 to Etheridge’s 2012 gubernatorial campaign.etheridge  He gave $4800 to Etheridge in 2010 — the year Brawlin’ Bob bit the dust in his congressional race against Renee Ellmers.   MORE: 

Day and the Charlotte-based wrecker company also teamed up this year and hired a lobbyist, Alexander “Sandy” Sands of the Nexsen Pruet law firm in Raleigh.

Day said Lewis offered nothing in return for the donation.

“Had David Lewis made any promises to me and guaranteed me anything, I certainly wouldn’t have had to hire Sandy Sands,” he said.

Lewis said that Day sought his help, and he obliged, but that the financial contribution had nothing to do with it.

Again — the committee approves the legislation one day, the next day Lewis gets the five grand, and the NEXT DAY the legislation that so interests Day is buried in Lewis’s committee.  MORE: 

[…] Lewis’ campaign-finance report lists Day as a teacher. According to the State Board of Elections, every other contribution Day has made to state candidates since 1998 identifies him as a contractor, government contractor or president of Martin Edwards & Associates. Day said he once taught at a community college years ago and that his wife teaches at N.C. State University. Both his and his wife’s names were on the check, he said.

Lewis said he was unaware of the “clerical error on the part of my campaign-finance reporting team” and that it would be corrected. As for the timing of the contribution and his action to stop the legislation harmful to Day’s company, Lewis said: “To be candid, during this exceptionally busy legislative time period, the best I can recall is adding the referral was a part of my normal bill management duties in the House. … The bill was seriously flawed and misguided in attempting to grow government, while hurting small business – without a solid administrative plan.”

Again, this is coming from a leader in a chamber that griped at the Senate for NOT SPENDING ENOUGH money.

And — on the occupation confusion  — Lewis appears to be the ONLY one who made that mistake.   Lewis is not the only pol that Day has donated to.  Bob Etheridge and two Harnett legislative candidates all managed to get Day’s profession correct.