McCRORY TO SIGN MEDICAID BILL, THREE OTHERS: Much like the bill to cut unemployment benefits, Gov. Pat McCrory will hold a private signing at the Capitol for a bill to block the expansion of Medicaid health care coverage to roughly 500,000, the majority of which are uninsured. The measure also blocks a state-based health insurance exchange and generated a heated debate in the N.C. General Assembly, where it passed largely along party lines. McCrory said the state is not ready for either part of the federal health care law at this point. The Republican governor will also sign the possum drop bill (HB66), a funding fix for group homes (SB4) and a measure to impose great penalties for protests that disturb military funerals (HB19) at 4:30 p.m.
TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: A House Judiciary subcommittee looks at a bill (HB156) to limit the N.C. Education Lottery's ability to advertise and offer new types of games, as well as take the word "education" from its official name. The issue is likely to split Republicans and Democrats, much as the original lottery vote did. Another House subcommittee will consider a measure to open campus police records held by private colleges to public inspection. The Senate Education Committee will take up two bills related to digital learning. Both chambers convene at 2 p.m. McCrory and state officials are participating in a hurricane drill Wednesday morning.
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GENARDO MEETS THE PRESS: Kim Genardo, McCrory's new communications director and until recently a former political reporter at NBC-17, met the Capital Press Corps on Tuesday for the first time in her new role. Before the press conference at the governor's mansion, she greeted reporters on the front steps. With a smile, she cautioned, "Be nice. Don't make me show my teeth on Day 5."
UNDER THE DOME RECOGNIZED: Under the Dome is listed by The Washington Post as one of the top state-based political blogs. Dome appeared as the top blog in North Carolina along with The Daily Haymaker, a right-leaning outfit that likes to skewer Dome as often as possible, as well as Republican leaders the author deems as too meek for its taste. A lively read, for sure. The nominations were made by readers of the Post's Fix political blog.
BLACK CAUCUS PLANS TO STAY VOCAL THIS SESSION: The Legislative Black Caucus laid out it's legislative agenda Tuesday, using a quote from Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.: "There comes a time when silence is betrayal."
"Some say, 'This is a bad time for the Black Caucus. What are you really going to do?' We are going to do a lot because we are going to be vocal," said Rep. Garland Pierce, the caucus chairman and a Wagram Democrat. Black lawmakers make up the majority of the House and Senate Democratic caucuses. Pierce, a Baptist minister, combined legislation to allow the expiration of the earned-income tax credit, unemployment benefit cuts and blocking the expansion of Medicaid with voter ID, raising his voice to say "these things are fundamentally wrong at the core and plainly ungodly."
Pierce stopped short of suggesting the Republican cuts are racially tinged. "It's not so much about black, white and party, it's a class struggle," he said.
PERSONNEL FILE: President Barack Obama's former North Carolina campaign director Lindsay Siler is no longer with U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan's office. Siler joined Hagan at the beginning of December as a senior advisor to the Democratic senator, a big move ahead of the 2014 election. Hagan's office said Siler left in February to take a job with Organizing for Action as the national director of issue campaigns. Siler worked for the Obama campaign in 2008, and headed Organizing for America (the group's previous iteration) in the state the three years prior to the 2012 campaign.
SEQUESTER COULD IMPACT PORK INSPECTORS: Looming federal budget cuts are threatening to temporarily shut down North Carolina’s multibillion-dollar hog and poultry industry by disrupting federal meat inspections, according to state and federal officials. State Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said he is concerned that furloughs of federal meat inspectors, along with other federal budget cuts, could disrupt production at major slaughterhouses – thereby wreaking havoc with the entire farm-to-supermarket food chain. “We have to find a way to keep these plants open,” Troxler told a meeting of the state’s elected leaders, called the Council of State, on Tuesday. “This is getting close to being an emergency,” added Gov. Pat McCrory. Full story here.
N.C. JUSTICE CENTER NAMES AWARD WINNERS: The N.C. Justice Center, a group fighting much of the Republican legislative agenda, announced its 2013 winners of the Defenders of Justice Awards: for legislative advocacy, Democratic state insurance commissioner Wayne Goodwin; for litigation, Phil Lehman in the Attorney General's Office and the mortgage foreclosure unit of Legal Aid of N.C.; for policy research and advocacy, Equality N.C.; for grassroots empowerment, the A. Philip Randolph Institute. The awards will be presented May 9.
MAYOR FOXX VISITS D.C., NOT RALEIGH: Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, a Democrat, did not attend McCrory's Metro Mayors meeting at the governor's mansion. Instead he was in Washington. From Observer D.C. correspondent Franco Ordonez: Charlotte Mayor Foxx made his annual pilgrimage to Washington Tuesday to visit with Charlotte-area representatives in Congress and ask for their support on various federal funding projects – including a new air traffic control tower at Charlotte Douglas International.
Foxx also answered questions about the proposal in the N.C. General Assembly to turn ownership of Charlotte’s airport over to a state-appointed authority. Full story here.
INSURANCE COMMISSIONER SATISFIED WITH RATE HIKE DEAL: State regulators and homeowners insurance companies on Tuesday avoided what was likely to be a long, drawn-out battle by reaching a settlement that will allow overall statewide rates to increase an average 7 percent beginning July 1. The deal, agreed to three months before a scheduled public hearing in Raleigh, was a testament to the fact that neither side was confident it would get what it wanted from a trial-like process that could have ultimately ended up in court. “It was better to settle at where we did than to take the risk that a hearing would have led to much different and costly results,” said Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin. Full story here.
HUGO CHAVEZ' NORTH CAROLINA POLITICAL CONNECTION: It was an unlikely friendship: the left-leaning, America-bashing, Latin American strongman and the conservative Republican congressman from North Carolina. But Hugo Chavez and Cass Ballenger hit it off. So much so that Chavez was the honored guest at a 2001 barbecue at Ballenger’s home in Hickory. “He was our friend and he was always like the guy next door,” Donna Ballenger recalled Tuesday. “He didn’t do anything but be nice to us.”
Cass Ballenger, who at 86 is ailing, chaired the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee of International Relations in the U.S. House. He and his wife Donna met Chavez on one of their several visits to Venezuela over the years. Full story here.
VOTER ID MEASURE TO EMERGE SOON: House Republicans announced plans Tuesday to begin moving the politically divisive voter photo ID bill through the legislature, saying they would slow walk it to give all parties the opportunity to comment. GOP lawmakers, who have enough votes to pass the measure, disclosed a schedule that will begin with a public hearing on March 12 followed by two House committee meetings in which expert testimony will be heard. The bill will likely be introduced in late March and voted on by the House in mid-April. Full story here.