5 highlights from Deborah Ross’ decade in the NC House

Deborah Ross
Deborah Ross tlong@newsobserver.com

Democrat Deborah Ross was recruited to run for U.S. Senate this year because of her decade of experience as a state legislator.

Ross represented a left-leaning N.C. House district in Wake County from 2003 to 2013, resigning to take a position at the regional transit agency now known as GoTriangle.

Here are five highlights from her legislative record:

Ethics rules: Ross co-sponsored several ethics changes proposed following a corruption scandal that sent House Speaker Jim Black to prison. Black, a Democrat, was convicted of taking money from chiropractors while they had a bill pending in the legislature.

One of her proposals aimed to rein in the “pay-to-play” practice of awarding government contracts in exchange for campaign contributions.

Another ethics law restricts gift-giving by lobbyists, bars political contributions by lobbyists and requires more lobbying expenses to be reported, among other provisions.

Transit tax: In 2008, Ross co-sponsored a bill allowing Triangle voters to consider implementing a half-cent sales tax dedicated to public transit. Orange and Durham counties already have approved the tax, and Wake voters will vote on the issue in this election.

Her support of the measure has drawn fire during the Senate campaign from the conservative group Americans For Prosperity, which argues that the tax “cost Triangle families in her region millions.”

Science museum expansion: Ross helped secure funding from the legislature for the $56 million expansion of the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh.

The Nature Research Center wing of the museum features a multimedia globe theater and hands-on citizen science labs. The addition brought more visitors to the museum.

Voter registration during early voting: In 2007, Ross introduced a bill that allows early voting sites to register voters who can then immediately cast ballots. Previously, voters had to register at least 25 days before the election in order to be eligible for early voting. Ross said the change would increase participation by making it easier to vote.

The bill became law largely along party lines, and Republicans said they thought it would result in more voter fraud problems. They argued it would increase the cost of elections and make it easier for people to vote in districts they don’t live in.

Collective bargaining: This one never made it to a floor vote, but it’s an interesting proposal nonetheless.

In 2004 and again in 2005, Ross filed a bill that would have given collective bargaining rights to North Carolina’s police officers and sheriff’s deputies. She said it would help the officers push for higher salaries.

The bill didn’t move forward because anti-union business groups argued that collective bargaining by police officers would result in increased property tax rates to fund their salary demands.

Colin Campbell: 919-829-4698, @RaleighReporter