Bryan Cohen May 15, 2013, 5:50pm

RALEIGH, N.C. (Legal Newsline) -- North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper praised House lawmakers Tuesday for their passage of a bill that would strengthen inquiries into public corruption.

On Tuesday, the North Carolina House of Representatives passed House Bill 908, which would allow state prosecutors to convene an investigative grand jury for financial crimes and public corruption with the permission of a three-judge panel.

Cooper has long advocated for legislation that would allow state prosecutors the authority to convene such a jury to uncover public corruption.

"This is an important step in our fight against public corruption," the attorney general said in a statement. "Investigative grand juries are a critical tool that can help uncover the truth and assure that wrongdoing by public officials will be prosecuted."

Under Cooper's direction, the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation has been the lead agency or a significant partner in more than 500 inquiries into public officials in the past decade, including members of the previous governor's staff and a governor for conduct that was allegedly committed while still in office.

Other public corruption inquiries by the SBI include a U.S. congressman for alleged fraud and false pretense, a district attorney for alleged failure to perform duties, and a judge for allegedly failing to discharge duties of office.

In the last few years, SBI agents have inquired into several state executive branch officials from various agencies to stomp out public corruption.

Agents routinely look into excessive force complaints and other criminal allegations related to members of law enforcement and government officials.

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