newsobserver.com blogs

Under the Dome

Visit the new Under the Dome blog

Thanks for visiting the Under the Dome blog. It has moved to a new location at newsobserver.com/dome. Click the link to read the latest posts.

This site will remain online for Dome archive searches but it won't be updated.

Tillis attending a Rove event last -- as the war of the trackers continues

In the boring footage face off, the Democrats show Senate candidate and House Speaker Thom Tillis at the House of Sweden at a DC event sponsored by Karl Rove, the former top advisor to President George W. Bush. I guess it just goes to show that both sides have trackers with time on their hands.

Young candidate says he'll challenge Rep. Stevens next year

Rep. Sarah Stevens, one of the key Republicans in the state House, will apparently have at least one challenger in the GOP primary next year.

George Wass, 19, says he will run against the three-term incumbent for the seat that covers Wilkes and Surry counties, according to The Mount Airy News. He will be 21 by the November election.

The paper reports that Wass is a recent graduate of the Surry Early College High School of Design. He said he’ll need all the time he can get to mount a successful campaign against the incumbent lawyer.

Stevens chairs or co-chairs several judiciary committees in the legislature, and has been closely allied with the GOP leadership in the House. She ran unopposed in 2012.

Hagan raises money in DC during shut down, GOP has pictures

The government shut down did not stop Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan from attending a DC fund raiser Tuesday morning hosted by the Realtors PAC.

The Republicans even provided footage of Hagan arriving at the event at the National Association of Realtors Building. It is not the most exciting footage ever. But after the Democrats filmed Republican Senate candidate Thom Tillis in DC making the rounds this summer, the GOP wanted to show they can be sleuths as well.

Budget cuts dismantle state fugitive team

A special team of state law enforcement agents that chased violent fugitives has been disbanded in budget-cutting at the state Alcohol Law Enforcement agency.

The Fugitive Apprehension Strike Team was one of the special units that former ALE Director John Ledford created to expand the agency’s reach.

Ledford resigned as director in advance of the Republican takeover in January and made himself an agent, which led to his firing on the ground that it exceeded his authority. Ledford is contesting his firing. He has not yet been replaced.

Cutting the FAST unit is part of the $1.75 million hit ALE took in the state budget this year, which amounted to 20 percent of the money it receives from the state.

Two dozen law enforcement positions will be eliminated or shifted to other funding sources for the next fiscal year, after which the jobs will be abolished unless other funding is found, according to new report to legislators.

Agents who were assigned to FAST have returned to traditional assignments, according to the report by DPS Law Enforcement Commissioner Gregory Baker. The special unit was credited with catching more than 60 violent offenders during its first few months last year.

The budget cuts also will leave some management positions vacant, including that of assistant director. In all, the agency will have about 7 percent fewer sworn law enforcement officers to focus on alcohol, drugs and lottery violations.

Hagan: shut down hurting NC

Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan told the Senate Tuesday that the government was having a negative impact on North Carolina.

"It's a shame that some in Congress are playing political games with the most basic function of keeping the government running,'' Hagan said in a speech."I didn’t get elected to shut down the government, and with each minute that goes by, more and more North Carolinians are feeling the impact of this irresponsible shutdown.''

She said the Winston-Salem regional VA office is closed and the claims processors were furloughed threatening progress in eliminating the claims back log.

Ellmers decries withholding of death gratuity because of shut own

Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers of Dunn took to the House floor Tuesday to decry the wittholding of $100,000 payments to the families of fallen soldiers a result of the federal shutdown. The payment, known as a death gratuity, is typically sent within three days, to help pay for the soldier's funeral.

Months after approval, new tax law mired in questions

The sweeping tax overhaul approved in July is leading to mounting questions months later.

A N.C. Department of Revenue official told a legislative oversight committee Tuesday that it is still trying to determine how to interpret a variety of provisions in the tax bill Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law in July.

Women "Ms. Behaving''

There will be a day-long "educational summit'' of women in Chapel Hill on Tuesday that is designed to get more women engage in the public arena.

The summit, called Women AdvaNCe, a nonpartisan educational institute, which has ties to progressive groups.

"The summit ail will empower women by providing them with the information they need to better understand how issue like the economic, healthcare, and eduction are affecting today's North Carolina women and families,"" said Mary Swann Parry, director of advocacy for Women AdvaNCe. "Women make up 52 percent of the population and 54 percent of the electorate in North Carolina. Standing, we can have a powerful voice and a fair shot at success.''

The "North Carolina Women's Summit: Ms. Behaving -- How North Carolina Women Make History,'' will be held Tuesday, Oct 15 at The Carolina Club in Chapel Hill. There are 20 speakers scheduled to talk including the group's founder, Laura Edwards, Rachel Seidman, associate director of the UNC Southern Oral History Program, Suzanne Buckley, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice -- North Carolina.

Who is watching the coast? Coastal Resources Commission largely vacant

The Coastal Resources Commission has been pretty much of a shell of itself recently, after most of the commission had their terms ended as a result of a legislature-ordered reorganization.

But that may be about to change. Republican Gov. Pat McCrory is expected to announce new appointments in the coming days according to Ryan Tronovitch, a spokesman for the governor.

The legislature this summer voted to reduce the commission from 15 to 13 members, and replaced all but four of its members as of July 30th.

Morning Memo: McCrory administration slanted Medicaid report

McCRORY BOOED IN HIS HOMETOWN: For his 69th birthday party, Charlotte attorney Bill Diehl rented out The Fillmore at the N.C. Music Factory, hired rockers Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and invited around 400 of his closest friends, Jim Morrill reports. Among them: Gov. Pat McCrory.

When the band took a break, Diehl grabbed a mic and introduced McCrory, who was greeted with a loud smattering of boos. It wasn't the first time the former Charlotte mayor -- elected and re-elected seven times -- has heard boo birds in his hometown. In Charlotte, at least, the popular mayor has been a less popular governor. This summer he appeared at a concert at the Bechtler Museum. When he was formally introduced, many in the audience booed.

MUST-READ: For months, members of the McCrory administration have maintained that the state’s Medicaid program is "broken." But in the first of a two-part investigation, North Carolina Health News shows McCrory officials sat on information that would have depicted the state’s much-lauded Medicaid program in a better light. Read it here.

***More from the N.C. Health News story and an important notice to readers below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Duke grad's confirmation to Air Force Secretary on hold

Deborah Lee James, President Barack Obama’s choice to be the next secretary of the Air Force, is a Duke University graduate. James majored in comparative studies and graduated in 1979.

If she’s confirmed by the Senate, James will be responsible for 330,000 active-duty men and women in the Air Force, 176,000 Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve members, and about 186,000 civilian defense workers. She’ll also oversee a budget of more than $110 billion.

Art Pope's $90 million fix-it list for state government

State Budget director Art Pope is recommending $90 million in repair and renovation projects in state government from repairing new roofs, to putting in new elevators, to paint jobs.

The funds were part of $150 million appropriated by the legislature – with $60 million going to the University of North Carolina system and $90 million going to other state agencies across the state.

In a memo to legislative leaders, Pope said the agencies had requested $554.4 million for 545 renovation and repair projects and the budget office had pared it down to $90 million for 191 projects.

Gov. Pat McCrory had said he would put a particular emphasis on fixing broken systems, particularly projects that had been put off because of the recession.

The projects topping $1 million include $1.6 million for structural work for Parking Deck 65, $2.6 million for a lighting retrofit in several state government buildings, $1.8 million to replace the roof of the Administration Building, $1.3 million for art store renovation and a new fire suppression system at the N.C. Museum of Art, $4.7 million for new heating plant at the O'Berry Neuro Medical Center in Goldsboro, $1.1 million for ADA and security upgrades at the Walter B. Jones facility, $2.2 million for a new steam plant for the John Umstead Hospital, $1.8 million for upgraded SBI crime labs, $1.4 million for renovations to the SBI building, $2.9 million to renovate the gym at the Western School for the Deaf, $1.7 million to upgrade obsolete security systems, $3.4 million to install and replace fire alarm systems, $7.5 million for various roof repairs, and $1.7 million to renovate the Dobbs Youth Development Center kitchen.

Barber heading to DC for Supreme Court rally

The Rev. William J. Barber, the state NAACP president, will be in Washington Tuesday, to speak at a rally against big money in connection with the U.S. Supreme Court hearing the McCutcheon v FEC case.

Shaun McCutcheon, the lead plaintiff is challenging the $123,000 on contributions a single donor may make to federal candidates and political party committees during any two-year election cycle.

Duke study: The more extreme your political views, the more certain you're right

Conservatives tend to be more dogmatic about their believes than liberals, but both sides their their views are superior and all other views are inferior, according to a new Duke University study.

The study, posted online edition of Psychological Science, questioned 527 adults on nine hot-button issues. It found those who endorse the extremes of conservative and liberal viewpoints demonstrate greater belief superiority than those who hold moderate views.

"These findings help to explain why politicians with more extreme view can't reach across the aisle,'' said Kaitlin Toner, who was the lead author of the study. "As more extreme candidates get elected to Congress, compromise becomes more difficult and deadlocks increase because those with more extreme views are more certain that they are right.''

The study found that "dogmatism was higher for people endorsing conservative views than for people endorsing liberal views, which replicates the rigidity-of-the right hypothesis.''

But Mark Leary, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke, said the key finding, is that people with more extreme views are more certain that they are right.