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New N.C. Open Government Coalition director

An assistant district attorney and former reporter will be the new director of the N.C. Open Government Coalition.

Jonathan D. Jones, an assistant D.A. in Durham County, will become director of the Open Government Coalition and Sunshine Center, which ishoused at Elon University, in mid-August. He'll take over for Brooke Barnett, a professor of communications who has become interim associate provost for inclusive community at Elon.

Jones will work with the coalition board to organize the state's annual Sunshine Day, advise citizens about open government issues, produce webinars and workshops around the state, and handle communications. He'll also teach in Elon's School of Communications. Jones has undergraduate, master's and law degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel HIll. He was named assistant district attorney in January 2012, and also worked for six years as a reporter in Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina.

"I'm ecstatic to pick up on the tremendous work coalition members have already been doing to educate record holders and and record seekers of our open government laws," Jones said in a statement.

Morning Memo: McCrory concerned about payday lending, GOP activist hired as lobbyist

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The GOP kerfuffle about sweeping clean state board appointees continues in a House Rules Committee meeting this morning (read more about it below). Gov. Pat McCrory makes remarks at the Council for Entrepreneurial Development Life Science Conference. Senate convenes at 11 a.m. and a controversial measure about control of the Charlotte airport is on the calendar. The House starts at 1 p.m. to consider a bill about using lottery funds for digital education, as the governor pitched in his State of the State address.

McCRORY VOICES CONCERN ABOUT PAYDAY LENDING BILL: The Republican governor is expressing skepticism about a bill to legalize payday lending -- one of the most moneyed efforts this legislative session. From AP: "McCrory spokeswoman Crystal Feldman said Wednesday the governor has objections to a Senate bill that would reinstitute a class of loans of up to $500 for which lenders could charge fees reaching $75. Industry representatives say the government-regulated loans provide a needed credit option for people with nowhere else to go. Feldman says this and similar legislation don't align with McCrory's objective to lessen the financial burden of families. She says high-risk loans put families in danger of incurring debt."

***Good morning. Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- the tipsheet for N.C. politics. Send tips and news to dome@newsobserver.com. And read much more below.***

Morning Roundup: Distinct partisan choice in state superintendent's race

North Carolina voters will decide whether the state superintendent of public instruction for the next four years should be an educator.

Democratic incumbent June Atkinson, 64, argues that her education degrees, her career as a teacher and state school administrator, and her two terms as state schools superintendent make her the right choice for the job. But her Republican challenger, Wake County school board member John Tedesco, 37, argues that what’s needed is a superintendent who represents taxpayers and families, and not someone who’s worked in the “Raleigh education establishment since 1976.” Read a full profile of the race here.

More political headlines below.

Elon poll shows attitudes shifting slightly on same-sex marriage

A new Elon poll of all North Carolinians -- not just likely voters -- shows attitudes shifting ever so slightly on the issue of marriage rights or legal recognition for same-sex couples.

Broad support for open government

There is broad public support in North Carolina for government being conducted in the open, according to a new poll.

The Elon University Poll found that 81 percent support a constitutional amendment to require that all public business of any government body be open and available to the public. Only 16 percent oppose it.

A large majority (73 percent) belive  citizen access to public documents, records and meetings can influence government operations.

A majority (57 percent) said they have tried to get public documents or regards and most (84 percent) said they were successful when they tried.

The documents citizens were most likely to have attempted to obtain were police reports(72 percent) property records(69 percent), names and addresses of sex offenders (61 percent), records dealing with someone's criminal past (61 percent) and salaries of public employees (49 percent.)

Asked to name the three types of information that North Carolinians should not have access to, they said divorce court files (78 percent) driver's license records (71 percent) and government work emails (45 percent.)

The poll of 467 North Carolina residents was conducted Feb. 20-24 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percent.

Poll: Most North Carolinians support recognition of same-sex couples

As some GOP legislators are considering renewing their effort to pass a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, a new poll suggests a majority of North Carolinians now support at least some legal recognition of same-sex couples.

More than one-quarter believe gay people should have full marriage rights, according to a new Elon University survey released Monday.

The poll found an erosion of support since March 2009 among those opposed to all legal recognition of same-sex partnerships, down from 44 percent to 35 percent.

About 29 percent supported civil unions or partnerships for same-sex couples but not full marriage rights. About 28 percent of people support marriage rights.

The poll was conducted last week and surveyed 467 North Carolina residents. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percentage points.

Charter schools yes, vouchers no

A majority of North Carolina residents like the idea of charter schools, but don't like vouchers, according to a new state-wide poll.

The Elon University Poll found that 53 percent support public funding of charter schools, which are public schools that operate outside regular rules. Thirty-six percent oppose it. Despite the support, 60 percent want to keep the current cap at 100 school. The new Republican majority in the legislature hopes to raise the cap

But a majority(55 percent)  oppose the idea if using tax-funded vouchers to help parents pay for their children to attend private or religious schools. Thirty-nine percent support vouchers and 37 percent said they believed vouchers would encourage competition, thereby strengthening public schools.

The poll was conducted Nov. 15-18 and surveyed 520 North Carolina residents and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points

Elon poll shows support for sales tax hike

A new Elon University Poll shows that a significant majority of North Carolinians support raising revenue to close the state's $3 billion budget gap.

More than 6 in 10 North Carolinians support an increase in the sales tax by 1 cent per dollar spent, according to the poll.  And more than half – 56 percent – said they would oppose the elimination of state jobs to address the gap.

The poll, conducted Nov. 15-18, 2010, surveyed 520 North Carolina residents and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points. The sample is of the population in general, with numbers that include both landlines and cellular phones.

Respondents were asked a series of questions about the main areas of the state budget to gauge whether the state was allocating too much, the right amount, or too little on funding across these state service areas.

A majority of those who responded believed that too little money from the budget is directed toward local community colleges in North Carolina. Forty-three percent believe too little is spent on K-12 education, and 33 percent said too little is spent on higher education. Respondents were satisfied with levels of spending for justice and public safety, and for transportation.

For complete poll results go here and for Elon's methodology, go here.
 

Open government coalition hits $500,000 mark for Sunshine Center

The N.C. Open Government Coalition now has $500,000 that it plans to use for an endowment to support its Sunshine Center.

The coalition is a nonpartisan organization that supports efforts to gain access to public meetings and records. The center hosts conferences, handles citizen calls and participates in national meetings of the National Freedom of Information Coalition, according to a news release announcing the endowment.

The center, which includes Elon University as a partner, hosts the state's annual celebration during Sunshine Week.

Disclosure time: N&O senior editor Steve Riley and Charlotte Observer editor Rick Thames are board members of the coalition.

The coalition raised $250,000 from local contributions and received a challenge grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

"Receipt of the generous Knight Foundation grant marks the 'end of the beginning' for the Coalition," said Hugh Stevens, president of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition. "Now that our supporters have laid a firm foundation for the organization, we look forward to exploring new and expanded opportunities for promoting openness at all levels of government in North Carolina."

Fundraising for the endowment began in March 2007 with a $50,000 gift from the Triangle Community Foundation. Since then more than 30 organizations and individuals have contributed.

In March of 2010, the Elon Poll found citizen awareness of open government laws was up across the state of North Carolina from 26 percent in 2007 to 46 percent today.

Dome memo: Contempt and protests

FROM AUTHOR TO INMATE? Andrew Young and his wife, Cheri Young, came precariously close to going to jail this week after a judge became convinced they hadn't told the whole truth about the John Edwards sex tape. The Youngs aren't out of trouble yet. Another hearing on the issue is scheduled for today.

IT'S YOUR FAULT: Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor told an audience at Elon University's law school that she thinks it's a shame that North Carolina still elects its judges. She said other states have found that you get better judges if voters aren't doing the hiring.

THANKS, INTERNET: Gov. Bev Perdue's Facebook page was attacked by animal rights activists who posted hundreds of messages urging Perdue to stop animal abuse at a Robeson County shelter. Perdue explained that she has no authority over animal shelters, but that didn't stop some of the protesters from comparing the shelter to the Holocaust.

IN OTHER NEWS: College students protesting tuition increases got themselves kicked out of a legislative meeting. N.C. State University has dedicated a courtyard to former governors Kerr and Bob Scott. The state lottery replaced its usual slate of advertising this week with an ad promoting awareness of problem gambling.

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