Under the Dome

Morning Memo: McCrory to White House; more details from strategy memo

MEMO STIRS THE N.C. POLITICAL POT: The political strategy memo from a cadre of groups aligned with Democratic causes is getting a good bit of attention for its tactics. One overlooked in all the coverage: a staff of video trackers to follow the every move of the "targets" (Pat McCrory, Thom Tillis, Phil Berger) and hiring private investigators.

McCRORY VISITING THE WHITE HOUSE: Pat McCrory is visiting Washington Friday through Monday for a series of meetings with the National Governors Association and Republican Governors Association. On Sunday, along with all governors, he will dine at the White House with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, followed by a meeting at the White House the next morning with the president.

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- more N.C. political news and analysis below, including more details from the anti-Republican strategy memo.

TAKING A PAGE FROM FLORIDA: The memo from Progress NC, a group aligned with Democrats that opposes the state's Republican leadership, and Blueprint, a "nonpartisan" nonprofit, points to the Florida campaign to weaken Republican Gov. Rick Scott. (Link to American Prospect magazine story I wrote on the Florida effort in 2011. The "Pink Slip Rick" campaign was in some ways effective at countering the new Republican governor's strategy, though the target appeared much more ripe than the current GOP leadership in North Carolina. The memo mentions in at least two places that N.C. progressive activists should try to learn from the campaign and possibly implement it here.

QUESTIONABLE COORDINATION?: House Minority Leader Larry Hall's explanation for why his State of the State response took directly from the Project New America poll outlined in the memo leave more questions than it answers. Hall said Thursday he’s not sure where his language came from, that he researches a variety of sources. He said the memo may have taken the language from earlier speeches he gave on the subject.

McCRORY'S NUMBERS IN MEMO POLL: In the 65-question poll from Myers Research that accompanied the memo obtained by Dome earlier this week, 42 percent think McCrory is doing an excellent or good job, 28 percent think he's doing a fair or poor job and 30 percent don't know. The numbers from the Jan. 29-Feb.3 survey roughly emulate the latest PPP poll but the different category breakdown is illuminating. Much of the rest of the poll is message testing -- the groups trying to find pressure points to measure at what point the GOP agenda may overreach. When you juxtapose the pay raises McCrory gave his cabinet with the unemployment benefit cuts, the numbers aren't pretty for the governor: 58 percent have serious doubts about him and 36 don't have serious doubts.

NEW DMV OFFICIAL RUSHES TO COMPLY WITH LAW: Randy H. Dishong was hired Monday as chief enforcer of the state’s car inspection and registration laws. The next day, he had to take care of an inspection and registration problem with his own car. Dishong, 39, of Wake Forest was named deputy commissioner at the state Division of Motor Vehicles. His job includes oversight of the License and Theft Bureau, which is supposed to make sure that millions of North Carolina cars and trucks are inspected and their registrations are renewed each year. DMV will start collecting county property taxes on cars this summer.

The News & Observer inquired about Dishong’s car Tuesday. Greer Beaty, Department of Transportation spokeswoman, said several hours later that Dishong had taken steps that day to bring his safety and emissions inspection and his registration up to date. The N&O sought comment from Dishong about his car, and also about his misdemeanor conviction in Ohio in 1996, for petty theft. He did not respond to emails or calls to his office and cellphones.

SAINE RECEIVED UNEMPLOYMENT, LATER VOTES TO REDUCE BENEFITS: From the advocacy group N.C. Policy Watch's story -- "The unemployment insurance plan, which (Republican Rep. Jason) Saine called his toughest vote, would help the state get out of debt, he said. “It’s a tough position for all of us,” Saine said about the bill. “You do what you think you need to do.”"

McCRORY ADMINISTRATION's FINE PRINT ON IMMIGRANT LICENSES: Well, it's not so fine print. But the McCrory administration's decision to comply with a state Attorney General opinion and the White House to issue the licenses isn't what it seems. The proposed design of the licenses has stirred outrage among immigrant advocates. Mock-ups distributed on Feb. 14 by DMV officials showed “NO LAWFUL STATUS” in red capital letters on the license, as well as “LIMITED TERM,” also in red capital letters.
Armando Bellmas, a spokesman for the Latin American Coalition, based in Charlotte, said his organization was heartened that licenses would be issued, but “shocked and appalled” by the inclusion of such phrases.

At the same time, Republicans in the state House of Representatives have proposed a temporary moratorium on issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants who are part of a federal program that blocks deportation for two years. More here.

TILLIS, BERGER STAND BEHIND PANTHERS: Amid consternation about giving the Carolina Panthers state money for stadium renovations, the House and Senate leaders issued a joint statement Thursday: “Conversations with the Carolina Panthers organization and local and legislative officials are ongoing and productive.  The Panthers not only produce thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in economic impact, but are a source of pride for the Charlotte region and the entire state.  We remain steadfast and committed to keeping the Panthers in North Carolina and will continue to work together to achieve that goal.”

SENATE MOVE TO LEGALIZE FRACKING: A proposal to lift the state’s fracking moratorium and provide incentives to the energy industry to encourage drilling is headed for a vote by the full Senate. Republican Sen. E.S. “Buck” Newton, the bill’s lead sponsor, predicted the bill’s passage would bring an almost immediate economic boost to North Carolina’s hotels, engineering firms and trucking companies. But others are concerned about the easing regulation and increasing risk to residents and habitats. “I’m concerned about this aggressive energy to get this done, this jobs panacea, at all costs,” said Democratic Sen. Angela Bryant after the hearing. “It’s this gung-ho approach that’s scary to me, and that anyone in their right mind at these agencies is not going to get in front of this train if they want to keep their jobs.”

MEDIA OWNERSHIP FORUM: At a forum in Chapel Hill, Jim Goodmon, president and CEO of Capitol Broadcasting Co., emphasized his belief in keeping newspapers and broadcasting companies separate.“I’ve always been of the opinion that if you combine the newspaper with broadcast, you lose a significant voice” in the community, Goodmon said, referring to community papers.

Orage Quarles III, president and publisher of The News & Observer, said that depends on the owner. “I don’t think there’s anybody in this room that would argue that (Rupert) Murdoch has not done a great job with the Wall Street Journal,” Quarles said. “He has improved the Wall Street Journal.
“How was he able to do that? Because he had all the broadcasts on that side of the business that helped him support the print side,” Quarles said.

TILLIS ON GOP CONTROL: In Durham GOP speech, from Herald-Sun: "Tillis said the General Assembly’s Republican leadership and Gov. Pat McCrory are united in their overall approach, even if they will disagree from time to time. “They can’t find any chink in our armor,” he said. “We’re marching together.”

OPEN GOVERNMENT BILL GETS NEW LOOK: State lawmakers introduced legislation Thursday to toughen the state’s open government laws by making it a crime to deny access to public records and meetings. A similar bill died two years ago without a hearing, but with Goolsby, a co-chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senate Rules Chairman Tom Apodaca as the lead sponsors, it is likely to pass the Senate. The sponsors are optimistic about the chances in the House, too.

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