Politics & Government

Welcome to Gerry Cohen Day at the Capitol

Welcome to Gerry Cohen Day

Thursday was not only budget day at the General Assembly. It was Gerry Cohen Day.

House Speaker Thom Tillis took the almost unprecedented step of turning over his gavel and dais to let Cohen close the session. Another lawmaker invited him onto the floor and turned over his microphone. At an earlier committee meeting, a leading Republican senator referred to him as “Sen. Cohen.”

The occasion was Cohen’s retirement after 37 years as special counsel, head bill-drafter and unofficial historian of the General Assembly.

Cohen, 64, got his start in politics in 1973, beating designer Alexander Julian for a seat on the Chapel Hill Town Council. He joined the legislature in his second term and was there ever since. He might have written the book on legislative procedure. And if a bill passed in the past 37 years, or didn’t, he can probably remember not only the sponsor but the details.

“I think you’ve established almost oracle status,” Rep. Nelson Dollar of Wake County said during a parade of tributes. “It’s a knowledge base that can never be replaced.”

Cohen plans to retire and travel.

Holding a microphone at the desk of Rep. John Torbett of Stanley, he offered House members a short valedictory. “It’s a real pleasure to finally make a speech in the House after 37 years,” he said before receiving a standing ovation. Jim Morrill

Biden aide moving to Charlotte area

Vice President Joe Biden’s personal aide, Fran Person, is leaving that job and returning home to South Carolina, Politico reported last week.

Politico said Person, 31, will start work this week as an adviser to the University of South Carolina, where he is an alumnus, and will be moving with his family to Fort Mill, S.C.

According to Politico, “Person anticipated Biden’s moods and questions, served as team captain and gatekeeper on the road, and showed the ropes to visitors and new staffers.” Adam Bell

Carson in Charlotte area

Dr. Ben Carson says he’s made no decision about 2016. But supporters hoping to draft him for president raised more money last quarter than a group backing Hillary Clinton.

“We’re exploring the issue,” Carson told the Observer. But, he added, “It’s very difficult to sit around and watch what’s happening.”

Carson was scheduled to be in Concord on Saturday to tout his book, “One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America’s Future.”

Supported by many conservatives, including former North Carolina congressional candidate Vernon Robinson, Carson calls himself a member of the “logic” party. He criticizes President Barack Obama and calls for a return to “our historic culture of personal responsibility.”

He also criticizes the culture of division. “There are forces in action in our nation that are driving wedges in every crack they can find and creating massive divisions,” Carson said. “What this book is about is how we get around that.”

The National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee raised $3.4 million in the second quarter. The Ready for Hillary PAC raised $2.5 million . Jim Morrill

Job harzard

South Carolina Democratic Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill temporarily took on executive authority Friday while Gov. Nikki Haley underwent surgery on her right arm, but he did not need to use it, a Haley aide said.

The Republican governor had outpatient surgery for “right radial nerve decompression” and returned home Friday morning, said spokesman Rob Godfrey.

Haley invoked a constitutional provision that says the lieutenant governor “shall have full authority to act in an emergency” in the case of the governor’s temporary disability or absence.

McGill had that emergency authority for several hours, but no issues arose. Haley’s surgery lasted about 30 minutes. She was back at the Governor’s Mansion and resting by 10 a.m., Godfrey said.

Doctors attribute Haley’s injury at least partly to her hand-signing 39,000 letters since taking office in January 2011, he said. Associated Press


“In what world could I comprehend everything in here? … Stuff like this needs to be part of our distant past in this state.”

– Democratic Sen. Jeff Jackson of Charlotte, who like other senators got the 260-page state budget two hours before a scheduled vote. Jim Morrill

Pittenger schedules Matthews office hours

U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, whose staff last month began regular office hours in Union County, is starting the same in Matthews.

Congressional staff will be available 9 a.m. to noon every Tuesday at Matthews Town Hall, 232 Matthews Station St. Jim Morrill