Under the Dome

Morning Memo: 'Gov. Pay Raise', Sen. Hartsell face tough questions

GOV. PAY RAISE: The salary hikes Gov. Pay McCrory gave to his cabinet are stricking a chord. From N&O columnist Barry Saunders: If you saw our new governor live or on television banging away on a drum set with a band at Raleigh’s Lincoln Theatre last week, you already know Ringo has nothing to worry about.

For further evidence that the governor is tone deaf, all you had to do was read the newspaper the next day and see that Gov. Pat, henceforth known as Gov. Pay Raise, McCrory bestowed sizable raises on the people closest to him while sprinkling a pittance upon those outside his inner circle – you know, the ones who do the actual work.

You are reading the Dome Morning Memo, an analysis of the day's political headlines. Read much more below. Thanks.

AHEAD THIS WEEK: The UNC system committee considering a new five-year plan meets Monday. The NAACP holds is own legislative briefing -- sure to be much different from the one Republicans will hold -- Tuesday to talk about poverty and economic justice.

GOV. McCRORY HAS NOTHING TO COMPLAIN ABOUT: On the campaign trail, as when he was Charlotte's mayor, McCrory complained that the city didn't get its fair share of state highway funds. He blamed the state equity formula and pledged to change it when elected. But his hometown newspaper now reports: In a reversal of that long-running theme, the Charlotte area is in a highway building boom, with more than $3 billion in projects under way or planned.

WHO IS TO THANK?Former Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue and her transportation secretary, Gene Conti, who both left office this month. Conti’s Department of Transportation steered hundreds of millions of dollars to the Charlotte area, sometimes leapfrogging rural areas and smaller cities. “We have seen some significant attention in last four years, absolutely,” said Bob Morgan of the Charlotte Chamber, which has lobbied for more local highway funding.


INFLUENTIAL GOP SENATOR MAY HAVE BROKEN STATE CAMPAIGN FINANCE LAW:State Sen. Fletcher Hartsell Jr. spent nearly $100,000 of his campaign’s money in 2011 and 2012 paying off debts on at least 10 personal credit cards, according to new campaign finance reports. Hartsell, a Republican, said in an interview that he could not promise that some of the spending from his campaign, which is financed by donors, did not cover some personal expenses, which would be prohibited under state law. He could not provide detailed documents about the expenses, but said he would gather as many as he could. “I am not going to say there is not some instance that could be characterized one way or the other,” said Hartsell, whose law practice includes a focus on governmental law. “Most of these things that I do are sort of a blended issue. I do the best job I can to keep up with it.” Full story here.

CALL TO RESIGN? The still shell-shocked Democratic Party is quiet on the Hartsell issue. But some Democratic activist are suggesting the party needs to call for Hartsell to resign. Republicans are also quiet on the issue so far. Three GOP senators asked about the story Saturday said they didn't have a comment because they wanted to learn more before stepping out.

A NEARLY OVERLOOKED LINE IN McCRORY's INAUGURAL ADDRESS: McCrory said he wanted to better coordinate the state’s education system to the skills needed in the workplace. If implemented, he made this bold declaration that takes ownership for the 9.1 percent unemployment he is inheriting: “There is no excuse then if we do not get people off unemployment and get them into good jobs.” More from his speech.

ROB CHRISTENSEN'S TAKE ON THE SPEECH:The McCrory administration has a Dan Moore déjà vu feel. The conservative Democratic governor, who led the state from 1965 to 1969, also had a business background, as legal counsel to Champion Paper in Canton. Moore also had a number of businessmen in his Cabinet, although not as many as McCrory. McCrory’s Cabinet is dominated by business executives. His budget director runs a large retail chain. His environmental enforcer runs an environmental clean-up firm, his administration secretary is an oil distributor, his revenue secretary is a former tobacco industry executive, and his commerce secretary is a former utility executive. Past Democratic administrations have been pro-business. But it is clear that business feels a special kinship with the McCrory administration. More here.

KIERAN SHANAHAN'S RED SOLO CUP:For the defacto GOP ball at the Raleigh Convention Center on Saturday night -- the same scene as the traditional ball Friday night -- the guests arrived in chauffeured sedans, limousines and cabs. McCrory's new Public Safety Secretary Kieran Shanahan arrived in a stretch black limo with a deep entourage. He emerged as if at a tailgate party, holding what appeared to be a red solo cup and drank on the sidewalk as he talked to State Highway Patrolmen for a couple minutes outside the venue.

McCRORY's FORMER EMPLOYER RISING IN THE LOBBYING RANKS:The headline greeted Gov. McCrory at the top of the newspaper the morning of his inauguration. Here's the story: Gov. Pat McCrory’s rise to the top coincides with another ascension in Raleigh: his former employer’s lobbying practice. The Charlotte law firm Moore & Van Allen’s lobbyists represented three times as many special interests in the 2011-12 legislative session as compared to the previous one, moving them into the top influence peddlers at the statehouse. The burgeoning clout came as McCrory, the firm’s senior director of strategic initiatives, cruised to victory in the gubernatorial race with the help of campaign cash from the firm and its employees, totaling at least $80,000.

MORE HEADLINES --SAME SEX MARRIAGE EFFORTS CONTINUE: Mark Maxwell and Tim Young will go to the Forsyth County registrar’s office Monday afternoon and be denied a marriage license. Later this week, they’ll travel to Washington, D.C., where they have a license, and be married in front of crowd of family, friends and other same-sex couples from the South. Read more here.

PHASE IN A PHOTO VOTER ID REQUIREMENT, a leading House Republican is suggesting. GOP leaders, including House Speaker Thom Tillis and McCrory, suggested the identification card didn't need a photo. But state Rep. David Lewis, a leading lawmaker on the issue, still wants to get one into law. From AP: Lewis said an idea now being discussed would essentially phase-in the photo ID requirement, possibly beyond the November 2014 election. He said people without photo IDs initially could still cast ballots, but there would be efforts to help them obtain ID cards.

WORTH A WATCH: WCNC-TV in Charlotte did a special program on special interest money in the N.C. Supreme Court race. See investigative reporter Stuart Watson's story here.

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