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Morning Memo: Two more headlines raise heat on McCrory administration

MORE HUGE SALARIES AT DHHS -- Secretary hired staffer from husband’s firm; McCrory’s office says he does a “helluva” good job: An adviser to state Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos has been paid more than $228,000 by the state for eight months of work.

The state Department of Health and Human Services signed a personal services contract with Joe Hauck to serve as “senior adviser” at the agency. The initial contract was extended at least four times between March 1 and Aug. 1, and was modified at least once to pay him more “due to increased hours of work per day,” according to a state Department of Health and Human Services contracts website. According to DHHS, Hauck started under contract in January to work in Wos’ office. The contract is now set to expire Nov. 30, and it is capped at $310,000.

TIMING OF SHANAHAN’S DEPARTURE RAISES MORE QUESTIONS: Kieran Shanahan’s unexpected resignation as head of the state’s public safety agency in July came as he appeared to be making long-term plans to remain in the job. Three days before he resigned, efforts were underway to complete his clearance for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security so that he could be designated as the state official eligible to receive sensitive information in North Carolina about terrorist and other threats.

Also, the Office of State Budget and Management planned to have a “strategic” budget meeting with Shanahan on the day before he departed, which Shanahan indicated he would attend.

***Read more details on the latest two stories to sidetrack the McCrory administration below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: GOP not united on budget; Tillis explains abortion vote

REPUBLICANS SCRAMBLE TO PASS THEIR OWN BUDGET: Ten House Republicans voted against their party's $20.6 billion spending plan, including one of the chief budget writers. GOP leaders held an extra lengthy caucus meeting Tuesday to whip members to vote for the bill but hours before hand lobbyists reported that it looked like it could fail.

The House passed the budget on a 66-52 preliminary vote. … It’s somewhat unusual for the majority party to lose more than a handful of its members’ on a budget vote. It’s even rarer for a budget committee leader to vote against the budget as did Rep. Linda Johnson, a Kannapolis Republican.“I was not pleased with the education budget,” Johnson said. (More below.)

THOM TILLIS SETS HIS ABORTION VOTE STRAIGHT: Every move House Speaker Thom Tillis makes is viewed through the prism of his U.S. Senate campaign in 2014. And for weeks the Republican's rationale for supporting the House's much-debated abortion measure remained quiet. Asked about it Tuesday, Tillis said "it happens to be something that I support and I thought if I didn't, they'd say, 'Why didn't you?' so I thought would solve the question by making it very clear where I stood on the bill." It puts Tillis, who is considered a moderate Republican, in the same position as Rick Santorum. (Read why below.)

***Keep reading for more North Carolina political intelligence in today's Dome Morning Memo. Send news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com.***

Morning Memo: GOP moves to limit early voting as budget debate begins

REPUBLICANS MOVE TO CURTAIL EARLY VOTING: Republicans are moving in the final days of the legislative session to cut early voting by a week, limit Sunday voting and curtail some voter registration efforts in a sweeping bill that is expected to debut Tuesday. The measure also may advance the state's presidential primary to a week after South Carolina's first-in-the-South contest. The last-minute election measures will appear in a Senate bill requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. (Check Dome for more on the bill later today.)

EDUCATION FOCUS OF BUDGET DEBATE: The N.C. Association of Educators is threatening to sue over the tenure provisions in the state budget. State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson said for the first time in her 30-year career, she fears for the future of public education. “I am truly worried about the ongoing starvation of our public schools,” she said. “I see other states making a commitment to public education. In our state I see in this budget we’re cutting teachers, we’re cutting teacher assistants, we’re cutting instructional support.”

With education as the focus, the House and Senate will take budget votes Tuesday and Wednesday as they race toward the end of session.

***More on the state budget and other North Carolina political news below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: All eyes on the House, NAACP fires back at McCrory

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The budget and tax watch continues. House and Senate lawmakers are negotiating on both issues this week hoping to break the logjam. Some movement may emerge later this week. In House committees, lawmakers will discuss a power shift at the Charlotte airport, a sweeping bill to weaken environmental protections and consider four election-related bills. With the election bills, it’s not so much what’s in them now -- but how they may get amended. Talk is rampant about an highly-controversial omnibus elections bill. The chambers convene at 2 p.m. The abortion bill is in limbo but not likely to come to a House vote Wednesday -- though stranger things have happened. After a one-day delay, the Senate will debate a bill to impose drug testing and background checks on some welfare recipients.

NAACP PRESIDENT CALLS McCRORY REMARKS 'DISINGENUOUS': Gov. Pat McCrory's take on "Moral Mondays" didn't sit well with Rev. William Barber, the N.C. NAACP president who is leading the weekly demonstrations. In a statement, Barber said McCrory is trying to "play nice and move away from his original comments about Moral Monday protestors being outsiders." He compared McCrory's words to George Wallace, who dismissed segregation as a few isolated instances.

***Read more reaction below -- and get the latest North Carolina political news and analysis -- in today's Dome Morning Memo.***

ACLU to challenge North Carolina's gay marriage ban

The American Civil Liberties Union announced today that it wants to challenge North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriages by asking the state Attorney General to allow the group to amend an existing case on second-parent adoptions.

The announcement came less than two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. North Carolina’s constitutional ban on gay marriage remains. More on the lawsuit here.

At the same time, a national group outlined a strategy to push for the legalization of same-sex marriage in numerous states -- possibly including North Carolina by 2015-2016.

Senate budget expands database reach, raises privacy concerns

A year ago, a little-noticed provision in the state budget initiated the creation of a computer database, to be overseen by the state controller, to be drawn from individual information of state residents collected by state agencies, Scott Mooneyham at The Insider reports. The provision didn't exactly explain the purpose of the database, except to state that it was meant to "reduce unnecessary information silos" and "leverage the data." A series of new provisions in the Senate's proposed budget would rework, add to, and may explain the purpose of something called "the enterprise-level business intelligence initiative."

Safeguards on law enforcement drones sought in bipartisan bill

A bipartisan bill filed this week would place firm restrictions on drones. The North Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union immediately praised the legislation as providing needed safeguards.

“Across the country, law enforcement agencies are greatly expanding their use of domestic drones to conduct surveillance on citizens, often without any oversight,” state ACLU policy director Sarah Preston said in a statement.

Morning Memo: What voters want to hear McCrory say in State of State

McCRORY TO SIGN FIRST BILL, GIVE STATE OF STATE ADDRESS: As expected, Gov. Pat McCrory is making the most of an education bill that hit his desk last week, as opposed to another that will cut unemployment benefits. From AP: McCrory planned to put his signature on a law Monday morning in Asheboro that requires the State Board of Education develop by the fall of 2014 new diplomas that make clear a student is ready for college, ready a vocational career, or both. The bill received final approval from the General Assembly last week. McCrory was scheduled to visit Randolph Community College's industrial center for the bill signing. The bill's primary sponsor is from Randolph County.

The bill also tells the state board to look at ways to make it easier to license vocational and technical teachers. The new law fits well into McCrory's campaign platform about public schools preparing students for the work world.

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo. Apologies for Dome's technical difficulties last week. The blog back in shape now. Click below for more North Carolina political news.

Coalition vows to fight any voter ID bill

A coalition of groups on Wednesday renewed their call for the General Assembly to abandon any attempts at requiring voters have a photo ID or other additional documentation. They vowed to fight any such legislation through the upcoming session and into the courts, if necessary.

Groups to fight voter ID

Civil rights and voting rights groups are launching a campaign against a proposed voter ID law that's sure to pass the legislature early this session.

The state NAACP, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, Democracy North Carolina, and others will talk Wednesday about an opposition plan that includes public pressure, a public service announcement and a website.

The Republican-led legislature was not able to get a voter ID law past former Gov. Bev Perdue's veto, but Gov. Pat McCrory wants voter ID.

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