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Morning Memo: McCrory closes Latino outreach office

North Carolina’s Latino advocates are voicing alarm following the governor’s decision to eliminate the state’s office for Latino affairs. The closing of the Office of Hispanic/Latino affairs was sudden and caught many by surprise. The move appears to have exacerbated the already tense relationship between Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and the Latino community, including criticism over a driver’s license plan for young immigrants.

Advocates says it sends a message that McCrory and Raleigh conservatives are less concerned with the needs of the Latino community. Paradoxically, it comes at a time when issues of deep concerns, like immigration, are at the political forefront and Republicans nationally are trying to appear more welcoming to Latinos.

***Thanks for reading the Good Friday edition of the Dome Morning Memo. Send tips and news to More on the Latino office and other big headlines below.***

Morning Memo: McCrory promises big changes; Democrats hit Ellmers

GOV. MCCRORY PROMISES BIG CHANGES COMING: Days after releasing a modest state budget and weeks after a tepid State of the State address, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory is promsing big things. "Now we're moving into policy," he told a Chamber crowd Wednesday. The News-Record hits the highlights of what we should expect: "McCrory said the state Department of Transportation will be “revamping” how it finances and distributes money. ... McCrory said he’ll have “major announcements on Medicaid reform” next week, and that his administration is “completely revamping” the state’s commerce department. ... He said his tax plan should be ready within weeks and reaffirmed a desire to cut income and corporate tax rates to the lower levels of neighboring states. ... He said major announcements are coming on the state’s job recruitment efforts at the N.C. Department of Commerce, which new director Sharon Decker said last week may privatize many of its functions."

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The Senate convenes at 11 a.m. to hear a Mecklenburg property tax measure. The House meets at noon to hear a bill to repeal taxpayer funded judicial elections and another bill that favors Blue Cross Blue Shield. At the Capitol, McCrory and Public Safety Secretary Kieran Shanahan will announce at 10 a.m. the new Highway Patrol commander, Alcohol Law Enforcement director and State Capitol Police chief at a swearing-in ceremony.

Also on the political calendar: Mayors Against Illegal Guns is promoting a day of action to push its background-check legislation; a group of area university and college professors host a 5 p.m. forum at Duke University titled, "Save Our State: Scholars Speak Out on North Carolina's New Direction"; and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush appears at Guilford College for a 7:30 p.m. event with former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley, hosted by PBS's Gwen Ifill. This is likely Bush's his first visit to the state since the release of his book and open talk about running for president in 2016.

***Good morning! Happy "Friday" to state employees with tomorrow's holiday. Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- the source for North Carolina political news. Send tips and news to More headlines below.***

Morning Memo: Another gambling bust with N.C. ties; Hagan remains against gay marriage

ANOTHER GAMBLING BUST WITH N.C. TIES: On the same day Florida prosecutors busted a gambling operation that snared a company with major North Carolina political ties, an Ohio prosecutor leveled a new indictment against another sweepstakes company with Tar Heel ties.

The March 13 superseding indictment updated charges filed in May against VS2 Worldwide Communications, a company that operated illegal Internet sweepstakes gaming software, according to local news reports. The company's owners, Phillip Cornick of New Jersey and Richard Upchurch of Ramseur, face charges in Ohio of money laundering and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.

The two men and their wives contributed more than $45,000 to North Carolina political candidates -- including Gov. Pat McCrory -- with more than half coming after their initial May indictments.

HAGAN ONE OF 11 SENATE DEMOCRATS NOT TO ENDORSE GAY MARRIAGE: North Carolina's Kay Hagan remains opposed to gay marriage, even though three prominent Democrats colleagues recently shifted their stances. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday (California's Proposition 8) and Wednesday (the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA) about same-sex marriage.

**More on the VS2's campaign contributions and Hagan's stance on gay marriage below in today's Dome Morning Memo. Sends news and tips to Thanks for reading.***

Morning Memo: Inside McCrory's budget; Foxx considered for Obama post

UPDATED: WHAT THE BUDGET SAYS ABOUT McCRORY: Columnist Rob Christensen -- "It suggested that McCrory is a pragmatic, moderate conservative – not a tea party Republican. The budget colored him an incrementalist with a modest vision of what government can or should accomplish. A governor’s first budget is particularly important because the governor is at the height of his or her power to push an agenda through the legislature. McCrory will never has as much leverage as he has today. So what did he do with his leverage?

"McCrory’s budget offered no sweeping vision of what he wants his governorship to be about. ... This may be sound management, but it is not the stuff of which legacies are made."

REPUBLICANS STACK THE DECK: The UNC Board of Governors elections in the House on Wednesday opened a chasm between Republicans and Democrats. The GOP elected mostly its own kin to the board, sweeping out all incumbents. Democrats voiceferously objected. But House GOP leader Edgar Starnes' response crystalized the debate: "I would just remind you of one thing. The Republicans won the election. We are in control. We intend to elect Republicans and appoint Republicans and we make no apology for it."

***Good morning. Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -the source for North Carolina political news and analysis. Send news and tips to Click below for much more.***

McCrory offers modest budget, small pay raise for state workers

Gov. Pat McCrory proposed a modest $20.6 billion state budget Wednesday that includes a 1 percent pay hike for state employees but limits spending growth to 2 percent.

The Republican governor emphasized spending on education and economic development, two campaign priorities in the plan, by including money to hire 1,800 additional classroom teachers and $2.7 million to craft a new branding strategy to lure companies to the state. Another 5,000 at risk 4-year-olds would be able to get into pre-kindergarten programs, at a cost of $9 million a year. But it also cuts $117 million that now funds teacher assistants.

“We have a sound foundation but the foundation now has some cracks in it,” McCrory said in an announcement at the Capitol. “Our immediate goal is to fill in those cracks ... so we can have stronger foundation for future generations.”

McCrory included no major high-priced spending initiatives, reflecting the state’s still tenuous economic picture and his campaign promises to limit government programs. On average, state agencies will see their budgets cut 1 percent to 3 percent from the current year’s $20.2 billion spending plan, leading to some jobs cuts and the elimination of longtime state interests. The budget year starts July 1.

Morning Memo: 5 big questions for Pat McCrory's first budget plan

McCRORY'S BUDGET DEBUTS TODAY: Gov. Pat McCrory will unveil his first state budget proposal at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday -- a document that will help define his legislative agenda and vision for the state. Here are five questions he will face:

1. THE STATUS QUO OR BIG IDEAS? The state budget is as much a policy document as it is a line-item spending plan. Does McCrory offer big ideas to overhaul state government, such as a tax overhaul or major spending cuts, or put forward a status quo budget with few changes from the previous years?

2. WHO'S BUDGET IS THIS -- McCRORY'S OR POPE'S? State Budget Director Art Pope knows the innards of state government from his time as a lawmaker. But he is a polarizing figure in some political spheres and Democrats are looking for his fingerprints, ideological and otherwise, on the spending plan.

3. HOW DOES THE BUDGET ADDRESS UNDERPAID TEACHERS, OR STATE EMPLOYEES? McCrory's budget comes days after a new report showed the state's teachers ranked No. 48 in the nation in pay. Does the governor acknowledge this and offer them a raise? And likewise with state employees, who received a minimal 1.2 percent salary bump last year after years without pay increases -- do they get any love?

4. HOW DOES THIS BUDGET HELP CREATE JOBS?Following the GOP mantra that everything is about jobs this legislative session, what does the budget do in terms of economic development, incentives and job creation?

5. WILL LAWMAKERS TAKE IT SERIOUSLY? McCrory is the new governor with an approval rating higher than state lawmakers, but the lawmakers craft the budget. Will they stick closely to McCrory's draft or go their own direction?

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo, the source for North Carolina political analysis and news. Send tips to And click below to read possible answers to the questions above.***

Berger introduces second wave of education reform: teacher pay, tenure, school grading and limits on year-end tests

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger on Tuesday unveiled what he called the second round of education reforms aimed at holding schools and teachers more accountable for students’ progress – including ending tenure and grading entire schools.

“The days of accepting a broken education system in North Carolina are over,” Berger said at a news conference flanked by several Republican senators. “We must continue to demand better and positive change for our kids.”

Berger characterized the plan – outlined in Senate Bill 361, filed Tuesday – as one that will improve literacy and graduation rates.

1363721687 Berger introduces second wave of education reform: teacher pay, tenure, school grading and limits on year-end tests The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Morning Memo: Ahead of 2014 race, Berger, Tillis hit by national Democrats

2014 WATCH: National Democrats hit potential GOP candidates Tillis, Berger on Ryan budget. Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis are making enough moves toward challenging incumbent U.S. Sen. Kay Hagain in 2014 that its attracting the attention of national Democrats. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is asking whether the two Republicans support Congressman Paul Ryan's budget plan. "Republicans in Washington are back with their Medicare-busting budget plan, but potential GOP Senate hopefuls Phil Berger and Thom Tillis have yet to tell North Carolinians where they stand," starts a statement from the DSCC set for release later Tuesday.

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The House will consider a bill to curtail local building design standards that local mayors want stopped dead in its tracks (more below) as well as a measure to limit tanning beds for those under age 18. House convenes at 1 p.m.; Senate convenes at 2 p.m. Gov. Pat McCrory will make a school safety announcement in Apex in the morning.

***Good morning. Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- the source for exclusive North Carolina political news and analysis. Send news and tips to Read more below.***

McCrory to make school safety announcement in Wake school

It's new Republican Gov. Pat McCrory's turn to use a Wake County school as a platform for an education announcement.

McCrory, state Department of Public Safety Secretary Kieran Shanahan and state Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos will be at Apex Middle School at 10:30 a.m. to unveil the Safer Schools Initiative.

The initiative is being launched in response to the December school massacre in Connecticut. This effort is expected to involve a mix of public safety and mental health efforts.

McCrory's Democratic predecessors, Bev Perdue and Mike Easley, also would hold events at schools in Wake because Raleigh is the state capitol. -- T. Keung Hui

McCrory signs two digital learning bills

Gov. Pat McCrory signed two bills Friday dealing with digital learning and technology.

One signals the state's intention to transition from funding textbooks to digital materials by 2017, the other directs the State Board of Education to develop and implement digital learning standards for teachers and administrators.

"This legislation will help fundamentally transform the way our children learn in our schools through technology," McCrory said in a statement.

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