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Morning Memo: McCrory raises eyebrows; Tillis' watches late amendment fail

GOV. McCRORY SAID WHAT? The Wilson Times reported this week that Gov. Pat McCrory said he has often entered the crowds that gather in the capital city to protest the Republican agenda and policies. He said he even got a good cussing by protesters. But in the age of mobile phone cameras and instant posting to social media, the governor seems to have moved in and out of the throngs without anyone capturing his interaction on video or film.

DID HE MISSPEAK?: Repeated efforts Thursday to reach McCrory’s spokeswoman, Kim Genardo, were unsuccessful. More here.

UPDATED: WITH TILLIS WATCHING, COMMERCE COMMITTEE REJECTS LATE CHANGE TO WORKERS COMP BILL: Late Thursday, after seven hours of legislative debate, the House commerce committee held an impromptu meeting to hear a measure that attracted the attention of House Speaker Thom Tillis, who attended the meeting. (No reporters were in the room, so this first report comes from lobbyists who were there.) Republican leaders apparently wanted to amend a worker's compensation bill (SB 614) to prohibit professional athletes from filing injury claims. But the attempt to add the language failed by a 10-27 vote in the Republican-dominated committee. Harold Brubaker, a former House speaker and now lobbyist who represents the NFL Players Association, helped defeat the effort. Tillis represents the Charlotte area and the Carolina Panthers supposedly wanted this bill. But a Tillis spokesman said Friday the speaker wasn't pushing the bill.

ALSO LOST IN THE SHUFFLE: The contentious House RECLAIM NC Act -- an immigration bill that gives driving permits to those in the country illegally but also subjects some immigrants to temporary detention -- is now on the House calendar for Monday.

***This is the Dome Morning Memo -- the source for N.C. political news. The New York Times is taking another deep look at North Carolina. Read more about it below.***

Morning Memo: Senate budget on the table

SENATE BUDGET TIME: The state Senate released a $20.58 billion proposed budget late Sunday night that would eliminate class-size limits for the youngest public school students, move the State Bureau of Investigation to a department the governor’s appointee controls and puts various environmental programs under the control of a state agency. The proposal represents a 2.3 percent increase over the current budget and is about $17 million short of the budget Gov. Pat McCrory proposed in March.

Senate budget writers will hold a press conference at 10:30 a.m. to discuss it in more detail. Full Senate votes are expected later this week. More here.

NCGA PROTESTERS CHALLENGE CHARGES: As protesters gear up to assemble again Monday to highlight concerns about welfare cuts, health care funding, voting rights, racial justice, tax reform, environmental deregulation, workers rights and more, legal analysts are raising questions about whether the General Assembly police are within their power to arrest the nonviolent demonstrators. Irv Joyner, a law professor at N.C. Central University who has observed the demonstrations, said legal challenges of the arrests are being drafted. “We think we have clear-cut First Amendment issues,” Joyner said. Full story.

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- more North Carolina politics to start your week below. Send tips to dome@newsobserver.com***

For ex-lawmakers, retirement pays nicely

It pays to be a legislative leader --- even when you're gone. Or out of prison.

Former leaders head the list of those receiving pensions under North Carolina's Legislative Retirement System.

At the top of the list: former Democratic House Speaker Jim Black of Matthews, who served time in prison for corruption. He gets $3,607 a month, according to the state Treasurer's office.

His predecessor, Republican Harold Brubaker of Asheboro, gets $3,444 a month to supplement his income as a lobbyist representing more than a dozen clients including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and GlaxoSmithKline.

State employees PAC endorses Troxler, McNeill

Employees Political Action Committee, run by the union that represents 55,000 N.C. state employees, has announced its support of Republican Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler's campaign for another term.

"Troxler is known throughout the region for promoting North Carolina's agriculture interests while also modernizing the department," said Dana Cope, executive director of State Employees Assocation of North Carolina (SEANC), which operates the PAC.

"He consistently stands up for his employees despite the budget cuts his agency has had to endure," Cope added.

Brubaker's resignation last week allows him to begin lobbying sooner, Fitzsimon notes

By resigning last week, state Rep Harold Brubaker can begin lobbying when the legislature returns in January at the start of its 2013 session, Chris Fitzsimon of NC. Policy Watch notes.

Brubaker, a former House speaker, is resigning now because there is a six month cooling off period before a legislator can register as a lobbyist. “His resignation six months before the end of his term to cash in is ridiculous and makes a mockery of the efforts to stop the revolving door between legislating and lobbying,” Fitzsimon writes on his blog, The Follies.“When the current lobbying law was being debated several years ago, good government groups wanted at least a two-year cooling off period, but lawmakers would have none of it. Too much money to be made.'' Read more here.

Brubaker resigning House seat to go into lobbying

State Rep. Harold Brubaker of Asheboro, a former House speaker, is resigning from the legislature, ending a 35 year career in the legislature.

Brubaker, who chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, plans to open up a lobbying practice. “With the close to this legislative session,” Brubaker said, “it is clear that my work has been accomplished and future goals in my career rest outside of this legislative body...''

“It is now time for me to turn my attention to my family and my business,” Brubaker said. “I will be expanding the scope of business for Brubaker & Associates to include strategic consulting and government affairs lobbying beginning in 2013. My son Jonathan, who has been with the family business since 2002, will be joining me in this new business venture in order for our company to offer a full scope of service to our clients.''

Newt picks up NC endorsements

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich may have had a disappointing night on Tuesday in Alabama and Mississippi, but his campaign is pushing forward in North Carolina.

This morning the campaign released the endorsements of 10 Tar Heel lawmakers.

They are Sen. Jean Preston of  Emerald Isle, the Joint Republican Caucus leader, Rep. Harold Brubaker of Asheboro,  a former House Speaker, Rep. Julia Howard of Mocksville Rep. William McGee of Clemmons, Rep. Mitchell Setzer of Catawba, Rep. Carolyn Justice of Hampstead, Rep. Marilyn Avila of Raleigh, Rep. Larry Brown of Kernersville, Rep. George Cleveland of Jacksonville and Rep. Roger West of Marble.

Bru is back and other House chairs

Former House Speaker Harold Brubaker will be the new chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Brubaker,  an Asheboro real estate appraiser and cattle breeder served as speaker from 1995-1998, when the Republicans were last in control of the House. He has served in the House since 1977.

Speaker Designate Thom Tillis of Cornelius also anounced the appointment of Reps. Jeff Barnhart of Concord, Mitch Gillespie of Marion, and Linda Johnson of Kannapolis as appropriations chairs responsible for overall budget planning.

Named as co-chairs of the House Finance Committee were Julia Howard of Mocksville, Mitchell Setzer of Catawba, and Edgar Starnes of Hickory.

The three judiciary committees have been folded into one judiciary committee, chaired by Rep. Leo Daughtry of Smithfield, a former House majority leader.

Chairing the House Commerce Committee will be Rep. Danny McComas of Wilmington. McComas will name three subcommittee chairs for committees focused on Alcoholic Beverage Control, Business and Labor and Science and Technology.

Heading the Rules committee will be Reps. Tim Moore of Kings Mountain and Stephen LaRoque of Kinston.

Additional committees will be announced in the coming days.

A history of elections hearings

The State Board of Elections will convene hearings into the campaign finance activities of former Gov. Mike Easley.

The stakes for Easley will be high. Over the last decade, the board has established itself as a first step in corruption investigations. The board's hearings helped lead to the downfall of an Agriculture Commissioner, House member and House Speaker.

1998: Hog farmers and Republican House leaders

2002: Meg Scott Phipps

2006: Jim Black

2007: Mary McAllister

2007: Thomas Wright

2009: Mike Easley

Look for plenty of coverage, analysis, pictures and video next week here at Dome, at newsobserver.com and on the new Investigations blog, which launches Sunday. This weekend watch for stories in The News & Observer.

Board waded into hog mess

The current role of the State Board of Elections as a key enforcer of corruption laws began in April 1998.

The board will convene hearings about the campaign finance dealings of former Gov. Mike Easley next week.

The board was investigating allegations involving disputes between hog farmers and the Republican leadership that controlled the state House at the time.

Famers accused Republicans of using the threat of industry regulations to whip up campaign contributions. The board was also investigating whether an organization for farmers had operated as a political action committee without registering.

The Board cleared then-House Speaker Harold Brubaker of any wrong-doing. The hearing was notable for a successful stand the board took against witnesses who refused to show up.

A poultry magnate, Marvin Johnson told the board to "kiss my..." The board directed state law enforcement agents to arrest anyone who wouldn't cooperate. The witnesses decided to show up. 

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