TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory will address the media for the first time since his inflammatory comments about higher education funding and liberal arts studies at a 10 a.m. press conference ostensibly about the state's Medicaid system. At the statehouse, House lawmakers will consider a controversial bill to curtail unemployment benefits while senators work on legislation to block the expansion of Medicaid under the federal healthcare law. In Washington, the confirmation hearings for Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel begin as U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan faces pressure in recent TV ads to vote against.
OP-ED: McCRORY'S EDUCATION REMARKS BETRAY CONSERVATIVE PRINCIPLES: Political communications consultant and college lecturer Jonathan Riehl and former Reagan campaign official Scot Faulkner write in this morning's N&O: "With the governor’s star rising in the GOP, his comments no doubt were strategic. They also represent a total betrayal of conservative principle."
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MORE FROM THE OP-ED: "The meltdown of the conservative movement in recent years has many causes, including an addiction to the media echo chambers of the blogosphere, talk radio and Fox News. Anti-intellectualism is another part of this new, destructive ideology. A spokesperson for this anti-intellectualism was, of course, Sarah Palin, who famously could not identify what newspapers she read. To be conservative means not reading newspapers?
"Not so. As a political philosophy, conservatism is grounded in intellectual thought and deliberation. The governor’s statements about education are therefore not only counterproductive but also anti-conservative.
MEMO EXCLUSIVE: House Conservative Caucus to play more aggressive role this session -- Rep. Mike Hager, a House GOP whip, said the caucus will take positions on bills and work to make legislation supported by Republican lawmakers more conservative -- a swtich from last session in which the caucus played a less official role. "I think that's the point," he said. "We owe it our constitutents to have conservative legislation come out of here and we are going to try to put the boundaries on it where we need to be and give our opinons to the rest of the caucus."
Even though the GOP controls two-thirds of the chamber, "all Republicans aren't conservatives," Hager said. "You'll see more moderates in urban areas and conservatives in rural areas." The focus of the caucus will also change, Hager said, moving from social issues to fiscal ones, along with energy and education. He expects the caucus will have more power this year, too, because the Republican caucus is more conservative with all the newcomers. "The longer you are here, the more you tend to moderate," he said.
McCRORY APPOINTS CATAWBA COLLEGE BUDDY: Greg Alcorn, the governor's appointee to the State Board of Education, is a colleague from Catawba College, where both served as trustees. The official bio from the governor's office doesn't mention Alcorn's Catawba College connections but a cursory search linked the two men. Interesting sidenote: As McCrory and his new environmental secretary leave open the question of global warming, Alcorn helped lead Catawba's efforts to be come carbon-neutral, documents show.
SECESSION BY LEGISLATION: Lead story in The News & Observer and Charlotte Observer -- The state is showing a streak of independence from the federal government with Republicans ready to reject federal preferences on health care and unemployment insurance despite warnings of pitfalls and citizen hardship. Republican lawmakers say the bills reflect a desire to assert state's rights and tell the federal government to "stay out of our business," said Rep. Mike Hager, a top-ranking House Republican from Rutherfordton. "I think at some point we've got to draw the line," he said. "The 10th Amendment is in the Constitution and we need to exercise our rights under the Constitution."
COLUMNIST: Governor, education is about more than just jobs-- From The N&O's Barry Saunders: McCrory went onto the radio program of William “Do as I say, not as I do” Bennett to express his view that an education should prepare one to work, nothing more, and to deride the importance of a liberal arts education. Of course, McCrory has a liberal arts degree and Bennett has a PhD in political philosophy — a degree which allows him to expound with breathtaking certitude upon any number of subjects and tell everyone else how to live their lives.
NORTH CAROLINA HEADLINES: Lead headlines from across the state: Greensboro News-Record: Jobless rate drops but itsstill high. Shelby Star: Job news expected Friday, possible automotive supplier to locate in area. Wilmington Star-News: Lawmakers target expansion of healthcare for the poor. Gaston Gazette: Critics question state's plan to reconfigure interstate exchange. Greenville Daily Reflector: McCrory, UNC system leaders debate value of liberal arts education.
BURIED LEDE: LAWMAKERS CUT IMPORTANT PROVISION FROM UNEMPLOYMENT BILL: Advocacy groups point out that the current system includes what amounts to a built-in cost-of-living increase because the maximum benefits are adjusted annually based on a formula – two-thirds of the average weekly wage. But the bill calls for a cap of $350 that doesn’t change from year to year. More here.
A HEADLINE THAT COMPLICATES IMMIGRATION REFORM: From the N&O: Alejandro Ramirez-Castaneda has been deported from the United States three times since 2008. But he managed to make it back to Raleigh, where police say he was driving drunk when he got into an accident this month that severely injured the other driver.
BUSINESSES WANT MIX OF DEGREES IN WORKPLACE:Should public universities and colleges in North Carolina be judged and funded primarily by how well they groom students for the job market? The Charlotte Observer explores McCrory's remarks. More here.
A CAUTIONARY TALE FOR TOLL ROADS: At least 800 drivers on the Triangle Expressway have been double-billed this month, paying electronic tolls twice for every trip, the N.C. Turnpike Authority says.
STAM TAMES LOTTERY BILL, REMOVES WELFARE PROVISION: From AP: A key House leader says a bill he's drawing up about the North Carolina state lottery won't include a provision prohibiting ticket sales to people receiving public assistance or who are in bankruptcy. Speaker Pro Tempore Paul Stam of Apex said Wednesday the provision was the least important part of his proposal. He said got questions from all sides on the lottery issue about the provision. Some critics questioned singling out the poor or how retailers would enforce the law.
EMILY'S LIST ENDORSES HAGAN -- From Roll Call: EMILY’s List, the Democratic group that backs female candidates who support abortion rights, has endorsed Democratic Sens. Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire. “For the past four years, Senators Hagan and Shaheen have been tireless advocates for women and families in Congress,” EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock said in a press release. “Both became the first Democratic women to represent their state in the Senate with the help of the EMILY’s List Community."