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Morning Memo: House goes into OT, GOP pushes major bills in final moments

OVERTIME AT THE STATEHOUSE: What day is it again? The legislation continues its Friday session later this morning -- the one it started at 12:01 a.m. “Good morning, everybody,” House Speaker Thom Tillis said as he gavel in a new legislative day. The 9 a.m. session is one more than expected but House lawmakers didn’t want to stay past 1 a.m. to finish their work like the Senate, expecting lengthy debates. The House session is expected to last a couple hours. On the calendar: the “technical corrections” state budget bill that includes $2 million for the governor’s office to spend on innovative education programs -- a last-minute request from State Budget Director Art Pope’s office, budget writers said. Also: a final vote on a sweeping regulatory overhaul measure.

The big item left unfinished: Gov. Pat McCrory’s commerce bill. The fracking language added to the reorganization measure in conference doomed its chances in the house. (Special session, anyone?)

LEGISLATIVE SESSION ENDS WITH A FLURRY OF ACTION: Abortion. Voter ID. Massive changes to state regulations. Charlotte airport. It’s all headed to Gov. Pat McCrory. If you went to bed too soon, read it all below in the ***Dome Morning Memo.*** Along with Tillis campaign news.

Epi-pen bill dead for this year

A bill that would require schools keep Epi-pens on hand for emergency treatment of children's severe allergic reactions won't become law this year.

Parents from around the state are pushing the bill - signing petitions and sending email - which passed unanimously in the House in April and now sits in the Senate Education Committee.

Sen. Dan Soucek, a Boone Republian and co-chairman of the committee, said the committee was concerned about putting additional regulations on school administrators and are worried about the cost.

Though Soucek said the Senate won't hear the bill this year, it's still alive for the short-session.

Brock and Jackson to head Senate Ag committee

Sen. Andrew Brock of Mocksville and Sen. Brent Jackson of Autryville will be co-chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, it was announced Friday by Senater leader Phil Berger of Eden.

The two will chair the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources and the Appropriations Subcommittee on Natural and Economic Resources when the legislature convenes next year.

Jackson currently holds the post, but Brock is taking the post of Sen. David Rouzer who unsuccessfully ran for Congress rather than seeking re-election.

“Agriculture is North Carolina’s biggest industry, contributing more than $70 billion annually to our state’s economy and employing approximately 17 percent of our work force,” said Berger. “Sen. Brock and Sen. Jackson will promote policies to protect this vital industry and preserve our state’s wonderful natural resources.”

Veteran state Sen. Don East has died

Veteran state Sen. Don East of Pilot Mountain died this morning.  The Republican served seven terms and was running for re-election.

Senators received notice of his death at about 10:30 this morning, said Sen. Andrew Brock. "He was a good friend, a good buddy," Brock said.

The Mt. Airy News reported that East, 67, died overnight from complications following surgery a week ago on his hip and back.

Senate committee approves redistricting plans

Two sets of GOP-drawn plans for electoral districts won approval from a Senate committee today. Democrats didn't like either of them.

The legislature is scheduled to vote on redistricting plans next week.

The Senate committee meetings were marked by tense exchanges, including an argument between Sen. Tom Apodaca, a Hendersonville Republican, and Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt of Asheville over whether their cities get along.

The Senate committee approved a plan for 13 congressional districts and 50 state Senate districts after rejecting a change proposed by Nesbitt that would have keep Asheville from being split between two congressional districts.

Nesbitt said it was clear from public comments that people in Asheville want to be represented by one congressperson.

Republicans said they decided Asheville would get better representation with two.

"We treated Asheville like every other urban center," said Sen. Andrew Brock, a Mocksville Republican.

In drawing the state's 13 congressional districts, GOP map-makers gathered 49 percent of the state's African-American residents into three districts - the 1st, the 4th, and the 12th.

Sen. Floyd McKissick, a Durham Democrat, asked how the 4th District, where Chapel Hill Democratic Rep. David Price is the incumbent, was created. The existing district, which McKissick called "exceptionally compact," now includes all of Orange and Durham Counties, southern and western Wake County and northeast Chatham.

It would change to meander across seven counties, including parts of Alamance and Wake and thread into Cumberland County, with a river basin connecting the territory as it runs from from Chatham into Harnett.

One of the criteria used to draw districts is keeping together "communities of interest," and McKissick asked what rural Alamance had in common with downtown Durham or downtown Raleigh.

Brock said the "communities of interest" is one of the least important factors, falling behind federal law and court rulings.

"Almost every district is pretty diverse," Brock said.

Senate budget pounds Perdue staff

Chrissy Pearson, Gov. Bev Perdue's top spokeswoman, loses her job in the Senate budget, which strips 18 other positions out of Perdue's office.

Also on the chopping block, Mark Johnson, the deputy communication's director, Myra Best, a special adviser to Perdue on education, and teacher adviser Dawn Pope.

In all, the Senate budget eliminates eight filled jobs, seven vacant positions, and transfers two jobs to Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton's office. In addition, the budget cuts two Education Cabinet jobs from the state Department of Public Instruction. Though DPI pays for them, the Education Cabinet employees work in Perdue's office.

The Senate proposes to take $1.3 million from Perdue's $4.9 million office budget.

Sen. Andrew Brock, a Davie County Republican, said Perdue's staff is too large, considering she controls other executive branch offices and can use their employees for reinforcement. In February, Perdue had a staff of 69.

The GOP legislature has had its differences with the Democratic governor this year, if the veto count and sniping are any indication.

Brock repeated an objection voiced earlier this month by GOP state chairman Robin Hayes that, in naming Stephen Neuman her senior adviser, she was using state money to pay a campaign consultant. Neuman, a former aide to U.S. senators and Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan, was chief of staff for Barack Obama's presidential campaign in North Carolina.

Brock, who helped craft the budget proposal for Perdue's office, said she does not need several education advisers when she has Bill Harrison running the State Board of Education.

"Your jobs program isn't the jobs in your office," he said.

The Senate budget eliminates one vacant position from Dalton's office, and tells him to find $284,000 savings.

Pearson said Perdue's office is already taking advantage of policy experts other departments, and noted that the Senate cuts the governor's office 20 percent and the General Assembly budget a little more than 2 percent.

"It's interesting that we got hit so hard," she said.

GOP legislators lead in social media

The state's Republican legislators lead Democrats in their use of Facebook and Twitter, according to the Raleigh public relations and lobbying firm Capstrat.

In a study of legislators' tweeting and posting habits, Capstrat found Republicans more connected than Democrats, and women more than men.

Sen. Andrew Brock, a Republican from Mocksville, leads his chamber in Facebook friends, and Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger of Eden has the most Twitter followers.

Rep. Rick Glazier, a Fayetteville Democrat, has the most Facebook friends in the House, and Minority Leader Paul "Skip" Stam of Apex has the most Twitter followers.

Dome took its own look at party Twitter habits, and it appears state Republicans have more to tweet about.

The state GOP Twitter page had at more than a half dozen tweets today. State Democrats have not added a new message since August 3.

Senate Democrats see 'effectiveness' drain

The biennial effectiveness rankings for the legislature are out and they show that a handful of the state Senate's most effective Senators are the very same members who won't be returning to the chamber.

Call it the effectiveness drain.

According to the annual rankings based on surveys by the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research, the most effective Senator, of course, is Senate Leader Marc Basnight. Basnight has been number one in effectiveness in the last nine effectiveness reports, which are released every two years and are based on surveys of lobbyists, capitol reporters and lawmakers.

The second most effective member was Sen. Tony Rand, a Fayetteville Democrat who was generally considered Basnight's enforcer until he left the Senate to run the state's parole commission late last year. Number three was Sen. David Hoyle, a Gaston County Democrat who has announced he won't seek another term. Ditto for number 12, Sen. R.C. Soles, a Columbus County Democrat, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor arising out of a shooting at his Tabor City home. Soles, the longest serving state senator, is not seeking another term.

Number 15? Sen. Charlie Albertson, a Duplin County Democrat and budget writer who isn't seeking re-election. Number 16 was Sen. David Weinstein, a Robeson County Democrat, who was appointed to run the Governor's Highway Safety Program.

The highest-ranking Republican Senator was Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, a Cabarrus County Republican who was ranked seventh. Senate Republican Leader Phil Berger of Eden, was number 11 and Sen. Richard Stevens, a Wake County Republican was number 13.

The lowest-ranking Senator was Sen. Andrew Brock, a Davie County Republican. Sen. Larry Shaw, a Cumberland County Democrat, was his party's lowest-ranking member at 47.

Civitas: No legislators on 'A' honor roll

Among all the conservative politicians at the N.C. General Assembly, it appears none are conservative enough to suit Civitas Action.

The non-profit voter education group, with has ties to the conservative John William Pope Civitas Institute, released its Conservative Effectiveness Rankings for the 2009 legislative session on Monday.

Rep. Dale Folwell, a Forsyth County Republican, snagged the title of the most conservative member of the N.C. House, with a 89.8 score on the 100-point scale developed by Civitas Action. At the other end of the spectrum, Speaker Joe Hackney, a Democrat from Orange County, was awarded a score of 0.

In the state Senate, Davie County Republican Sen. Andrew Brock was rated as the body's most conservative member, with a score of 79. Three Democrats, Sens. Ellie Kinnaird of Orange, Katie Dorsett of Guilford and Martin Nesbitt of Buncombe were all scored at the bottom, tying at 2.1 on the group's scale.

Civitas Action's scale is based on the elected officials' votes on bills and amendments the group identified as demonstrative of commitment to conservative ideals as "derived from free-market economic policies, limited government, personal responsibility and civic engagement," according to the group's web site.

By that measure, the most conservative member of the state House got the equivalent of a B+, whole the most conservative senator got a C+.

UPDATE: Bill Holmes, spokesman for Speaker Hackney, points out that the Democratic leader didn't vote on 49 of the 50 bills Civitas Action graded. The speaker typically only votes to break a tie or at other points where his support is determinative, Holmes said. Sen. Vernon Malone, who died in April, also got a 0 score from the group due to his being "absent" when many of the bills came up.

'Mary Kay' politics

Wake Up America thinks there's good politics to be found in Mary Kay, Amway or Tupperware parties.

The organization, which is seeking to be a national conservative answer to MoveOn.org, is offering to pay commissions to volunteers who recruit more volunteers and raise money.

In short, the group is building a multi-level marketing pyramid. The commissions wouldn't likely amount to a whole lot of money, but would be intended to help compensate volunteers for their time and effort.

"We're not offering any pink Cadillacs," said state Sen. Andrew Brock, a Mocksville Republican, a reference to the Mary Kay cosmetics sales prize. "We're wanting to grow and not get rich."

The commission rate has not yet been determined, Brock said.

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