Under the Dome

Morning Memo: Tillis to face questions, Carolina Panthers want state money

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: House Speaker Thom Tillis will offer a preview of the legislative session this morning in a closely watched press conference. His Republican counterpart in the Senate, President Pro Tem Phil Berger, did the same earlier this month and how the two visions dovetail -- or don't -- may set the tone for this year's term.

Three questions for Tillis: 1. Where does the Republican speaker stand on taxes? Like Gov. Pat McCrory, Tillis has been careful not to stake a specific position in recent days but with the session upon us, his direction is important to the anticipated legislation and its progress. 2. Does he support the Carolina Panther's request for state money for upgrades to the private Bank of America Stadium and the city of Charlotte's efforts to raise the food tax to fund renovations? 3. His GOP lieutenants in the House appear willing to push ahead with unemployment benefit cuts despite a federal prohibition -- meaning 85,000 jobless people in North Carolina will lose their federal benefits. How does the GOP avoid looking callous in a time of great need?

***This is the Dome Morning Memo, good morning. One day until the legislative session starts in earnest. Read below for more N.C. political intelligence and big headlines. ***

SPEAKING OF THE SPEAKER -- HE WANTS YOUR MONEY: Tillis will host a huge fundraiser on the eve of session -- asking special interests for donations up to $10,000. N.C. Policy Watch, a liberal organization, posted this fundraising invite.
The biggest donors get a photo op with the GOP House leadership and "special recognition" at the event. The minimum amount to attend is $150.
A ban on raising campaign cash during the legislative session begins the next day and lobbyists are banned from giving at all times. But the invitation makes it clear that lobbyists are not prohibited from contributing to the N.C. Republican House Caucus.” The underlying message is evident, critics say -- pay up.

WHAT'S IN ART POPE'S FOLDER? Well, press clippings about himself. (No binders full of women, ala Mitt Romney, here.) In an interview with Business Week -- article headlined "A tea partier takes charge of North Carolina's budget" -- Pope went on the offensive, as he does often when asked about his political activities. From the article: "Pope follows his detractors closely. “Who are my critics?” he asks during an interview in his new Raleigh office as he presents a folder full of highlighted press clippings and Internet fodder chronicling his activism. Among the texts is an anonymous blog post saying he should be assassinated. “They have waged partisan, personal, extremist campaigns against me,” he says."

As to whether he will emphasize a partisan agenda in the budget, Pope says no. “I am not taking an ideological ax to the state budget,” he told the magazine. Adding: “I look at myself as an honest broker,” he says. “I am simply taking a fresh look.”

PANTHERS' OWNER MEET WITH MCCRORY AND TILLIS: Carolina Panthers’ owner Jerry Richardson met with Gov. Pat McCrory and House Speaker Thom Tillis on Monday in pursuit of as much as $62 million in state money to help renovate Bank of America Stadium. The Panthers are looking for money from the city of Charlotte and the state to help offset the planned $250 million project. Richardson, team President Danny Morrison and their attorney met with the officials Monday, team spokesman Charlie Dayton confirmed. The Panther's registered lobbyist works for Moore & Van Allen, the governor's former firm.

STATE PORTS CHIEF FIRED: Wilmington Star-News bold front-page headline. From the story: Tom Bradshaw is out as executive director of the N.C. State Ports Authority, an official confirmed on Monday. Ports authority spokeswoman Laura Blair said Bradshaw no longer works for the N.C. Department of Transportation, but provided no other information. “This is a change in the administration. This is a transition,” Bradshaw said. “You’ve gotta remember. If you go back, I told the governor and the secretary I would give them a year. I came on Jan. 23 and left on Jan. 25.” But ports board members were caught by surprise when they learned news of Bradshaw’s leaving on Monday. “I wish I had been consulted with,” said Danny McComas, chairman of the Ports Authority’s board of directors.

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