- Associated Press - Friday, July 15, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - A powerful Republican in the North Carolina Senate officially announced his retirement Friday, leaving just enough time for the six-month “cooling-off period” state law requires should he decide to return to Raleigh in January as a lobbyist.

Republican Sen. Tom Apodaca of Henderson County released a statement Friday morning thanking friends, family and colleagues for 14 years of support after notifying Republican Gov. Pat McCrory that he would resign from office with a few months still left in his term.

State law prohibits a legislator from becoming a lobbyist while in office or within six months of being in office.

Apodaca said he has not yet decided his next move, but that he would like to leave the door open for a job “combining government relations and economic development.”

“My future plans are up in the air,” Apodaca said Friday. “Honestly, I thought I knew what I was going to do, but over the last couple days I’ve had other opportunities come up.”

Apodaca had already announced last fall that he would not run for re-election, but said he promised friend and ally Senate leader Phil Berger he would remain in office thorough the 2016 short session.

Apodaca joined the legislature in 2003 when Democrats still held control of the Senate. He became a top chamber leader when Republicans took over in 2011.

As the Senate rules chairman, Apodaca oversaw the flow of legislation through committees and onto the floor, with the ability to hold hostage bills he opposed or fast-track the passage of others.

He said he is most proud of coal ash cleanup legislation, building up the state’s “rainy day” reserve fund, protecting pension plans for state and local retirees and other conservative shifts since Republicans took the majority.

“I’ve been in the right place at the right time. I am truly blessed,” Apodaca said. “I love North Carolina and everyone in it. Well, most of them.”

Veteran Republican leaders tax-law writer Sen. Bob Rucho of Mecklenburg County, and Reps. Leo Daughtry of Johnston County and Roger West of Cherokee County have also said they are not seeking re-election.

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