Blake Appointed to Honorary Post in Senate
Now in his final year in the legislature, Moore County’s state Sen. Harris Blake is taking on new duties.
Blake, a Pinehurst Republican, was sworn in Wednesday as deputy president pro tempore of the state Senate.
“It’s an honorary thing, but it is part of the process,” Blake said.
Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton administered the oath of office to Blake when the General Assembly convened for a special session.
Blake was chosen for the position, the third highest office in the Senate, during the Republican caucus held prior to the convening of the Senate at 2 p.m. Wednesday. Blake knew in advance that the caucus would pick him for the new duties.
Dalton, a Democrat, is the presiding officer of the Senate.
However, most of the day-to-day operations of the Senate are handled by Sen. Phil Berger, of Rockingham County, who — as Republican majority leader — serves as president pro tempore. Berger is largely responsible for committee assignments and oversees all operational details.
“If Berger wants it to happen, it probably will happen,” Blake said.
Blake’s job will be to function in that capacity at any time Berger cannot be present. In the event that neither Dalton nor Berger can be present, he will be responsible for presiding over the Senate. He will serve at all sessions held in 2012.
Berger, who succeeded the powerful former Democratic Sen. Marc Basnight, of Dare County, now occupies a large office suite and has a big staff. Basnight was majority leader and president pro tem for a number of years.
Blake said he will receive no additional perks as deputy president pro tem but added that he is happy with his present office, about three times larger than the one he had when Democrats were in control of the Senate.
His daughter, Joy Blake Donat, traveled to Raleigh Wednesday from her home at Carolina Beach to be present for her father’s swearing-in.
Blake recently announced that he will not seek a sixth term in the Senate. His District 22 encompasses Moore and Harnett counties.
The legislature was called back into session Wednesday to consider overriding Gov. Beverly Perdue’s veto of a bill that would have rendered ineffective the Racial Justice Act. The legislature passed the repeal bill during a special session held in late November.
However, the session scheduled as a one-day event did not turn out quite as expected.
Although the Senate voted 31-19 to override the RJA repeal legislation, the House apparently was unable to garner enough votes for an override.
Instead, House Republicans lingered into session until after midnight and secured enough votes, including a few from Democrats, to override another veto, this one of a bill that would discontinue the practice of deducting N.C. Association of Educators membership fees from teachers’ paychecks. This vote by House members was 69-45 to override the governor’s veto from last summer’s session.
As for the Racial Justice Act, the House on Wednesday decided to appoint a committee to study some ideas to change the act without the radical changes required by the repeal legislation enacted in November.
Both Blake and state Rep. Jamie Boles of Moore County, also a Republican, voted for the repeal legislation and to override the veto.
The Racial Justice Act was enacted in 2009 in an effort to protect minorities from unfair imposition of the death penalty because of racial prejudice. Critics argue that the measure is being abused and is further clogging the judicial appeal system.
The legislature is scheduled to return for another special session in February. The next regular session will convene in May to consider the state budget.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at email@example.com.
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