Rep. Ross leaving Legislature for Triangle Transit - WNCN: News, Weather

Rep. Ross leaving Legislature for Triangle Transit

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

Democratic legislator Deborah Ross, an outspoken advocate of women's rights and other progressive causes, is resigning from a Legislature where Republicans hold a supermajority in both chambers and taking a job with an agency that provides mass transit.
    
Ross, who will work as general counsel for Triangle Transit, said Tuesday that she wants to have a job where she can improve people's lives.
    
"The biggest thing that has weighed in my decision to leave is that at this point in my career, I want to make things happen," said Ross, who's in her sixth term. "I want to have a positive effect, positive change, do things that make a difference in people's lives. And this is an opportunity to do just that in a very, very profound way for this region on an issue that I've been working on for years and years."
    
Ross, 49, said she doesn't know when she'll formally leave the General Assembly. Triangle Transit officials said she starts working there June 17.
    
She's supporting former Rep. Grier Martin to replace her. Wake County Democrats in her downtown Raleigh and southern Wake district must organize to choose a nominee to replace her, and Republican Gov. Pat McCrory is required by state law to appoint that nominee.
    
Ross and Martin, 44, were drawn into the same Wake County House district during the 2011 redistricting by Republicans. Martin chose not to seek re-election, thus avoiding a primary showdown with a close colleague.
    
She said she's most proud of getting funding for a new wing to the Museum of Natural Sciences. And Ross, a former lobbyist for the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, also successfully got legislators to approve comprehensive ethics and domestic violence overhaul legislation.
    
Once a top lieutenant to then-House Speaker Joe Hackney, D-Orange, Ross is the latest member of his team to leave the General Assembly. She has spent the past 2 1/2 years in the minority party trying to block GOP legislation that she and other Democrats view as reversing gains made by her party over the past several decades. Ross spent Wednesday morning in a judiciary committee unsuccessfully trying to mitigate a bill that would prohibit sex-selective abortions, which she ultimately voted against.
    
At a rally for women's rights in March, Ross said an abortion bill was part of a larger war on women and families in North Carolina that includes rejection of federal dollars to expand Medicaid and a proposal to require photo identification for voting. Both issues affect women disproportionately, she said, adding that the photo ID especially affects older women, who are less likely to drive.
    
"Why are they afraid of these older women?" she asked then. "It's because they are the women who have fought for rights. They are the women who care about family issues. ... They're doing everything they can to keep us quiet. But we're not going to be quiet."
    
Martin, whose term expired in December, said it would be impossible to fill the void left by Ross' departure but that he hopes to partially do that since he knows the job and the district. If the party selects him, he'll return to a Legislature where Republicans control the House, Senate and executive branch, a far cry from some of his four terms when Democrats were the majority party and held the governor's office.
    
As a member of the minority party, he said he wants to "make sure the public is aware of the wrong direction that we're headed. So in many cases, the best you can hope for is to be a witness. The best service you can provide is to explain to them what's going on and why it's wrong."
    
Martin, a military veteran, said he believes both parties can work together on issues of concern to the military. He said he was also able to build consensus among members of both parties when he was chair of a transportation subcommittee. "Those are areas that both Democrats and Republicans have a track record of working together on, and I hope that will continue," he said.
    
___
    
AP reporter Gary D. Robertson contributed to this story.

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