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Morning Memo: Hundreds furloughed; U.S. Senate candidates make moves

HUNDREDS OF STATE WORKERS FURLOUGHED: The federal government shutdown caused the furlough of hundreds of state government workers whose jobs are fully or partially federally funded Tuesday, and state officials said several thousand more jobs could be be affected.

The state Department of Health and Human Services told 337 employees not to show up for work Wednesday morning. Officials said as many 4,500 DHHS workers could be furloughed or see their hours reduced. There was also a smaller furlough in the Department of Transportation, and a small group of workers at the state Labor Department saw their hours slashed in half.

#NCSEN DAY: The Republican challengers in the U.S. Senate race are all making moves this week to position themselves. Charlotte Pastor Mark Harris enters the race today, Thom Tillis is hiring staff and Greg Brannon is touting fundraising numbers.

***Read all the U.S. Senate race news below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Thom Tillis issues a warning to Republicans about overreaching

House Speaker Thom Tillis issued a warning last weekend to his fellow Repubicans about overreaching with their supermajority power.

"I was the GOP minority whip in 2009," he began in a Facebook post. "My job was to get conservative Democrats to help us defeat liberal legislation. The Democratic leaders, heavily influenced by their most liberal members and far-left groups, could not resist the pressure to move too far to fast. They did not compromise and they went too far.

"They got out of step with the citizens of NC and they lost their majority as a result. It was their lack of discipline that laid the groundwork for Republicans to have House/Senate super majorities, a GOP governor, and (lieutenant) governor," he concluded. "Our lack of discipline will lay the groundwork for their ascendency and if they succeed we will only have ourselves to blame."

What generated the post is unclear. A Tillis spokesman declined to elaborate and answer specific questions. "Speaker Tillis was simply recapping what occurred under Democratic leadership before Republicans won a majority in 2010, and pointing out that the Republican majority should learn from the mistakes of Democratic leadership of the past," spokesman Jordan Shaw said Monday.

Republican lawmaker criticizes House Speaker Thom Tillis

In an unvarnished speech, Republican state Rep. Larry Pittman recently expressed doubts about the House speaker's conservative credentials, saying Thom Tillis' possible U.S. Senate bid is making it difficult to push legislation.

"I was proud to vote for Thom Tillis to be the speaker again, when we got back up there this year," Pittman told a crowd of activists in a video posted online. "Because last session, he was great. ... But, now he's running for U.S. Senate, or planning to, things have changed.

"They tell us all the time about how bad it was when they were in the minority and the Democratic leadership wouldn't let them get their bills moved or anything. Well now the constitutional conservatives, the Republican part of the House, knows what that's like." (See video above, starting at 11 minute mark.)

A Tillis spokesman said the claim is "inaccurate" and emphasized that the speaker has not made a decision about whether he would challenge Democrat Kay Hagan in 2014. UPDATED: Tillis wouldn't talk about Pittman's remarks. "I disagree with Rep. Pittman and that's my only comment," he said.

Pittman, a Concord lawmaker in his second term, said the speaker's office pressured Rep. Carl Ford to drop a resolution he sponsored that asserted North Carolina's right to establish its own religion. Tillis declared the bill dead shortly after it was introduced. "Carl was told very plainly you will withdraw this ... if you want any of your other bills passed," Pittman said. "That's exactly what he was told."

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.

Notebook: Tillis strikes different tone on Facebook

House Speaker Thom Tillis "resigned" this weekend. Maybe you missed it in the hoopla about the Democratic scramble to replace Gov. Bev Perdue on the 2012 ballot. Or maybe it was a "joke," as his office suggested, to make a point about some biased media sources.

"It's a tongue-in-cheek sarcastic thing," Tillis spokesman Jordan Shaw said Monday. (Such an explanation didn't work well for Perdue -- but her gaffe about suspending elections doesn't match Tillis' "resignation," Shaw says.)

Either way, Tillis' email is an intriguing look at how the state's top Republican's message sometimes strikes a different tone than the official word he distributes from his office.

Take the news that Perdue wouldn't seek re-election. The officials statement from her office thanked her for her service, and despite their differences, expressed hope about working together. But days later on Facebook, Tillis suggested that Perdue's reason for not running again wasn't legit and her decision amounted to surrender.

Info gathering put superintendent hearing on ice

House Speaker Thom Tillis, as he defended the state education budget, promised repeatedly this year to call local superintendents to Raleigh to account for their spending.

Tillis insisted districts were getting enough money to prevent layoffs of teachers and teacher assistants. If superintendents did lay people off, Tiilis said, they'd have to explain.

Teachers and teacher assistants around the state were laid off. School started.

Rep. Brian Holloway, a Stokes County Republican, said after a meeting with Tillis a few months ago a House-Senate education oversight committee that Holloway helps lead would be the forum for the superintendent questioning.

Superintendents would be called in to the committee before the end of the year, Holloway said.

Welcome, winter solstice. Still no superintendent hearings.

Tillis spokesman Jordan Shaw said the superintendent meetings will happen early next year, probably in February. Legislators want to make sure they have the latest data on employment and funding sources. They were waiting for employment information tabulated from the sixth paycheck, he said.

"We said from the beginning that we want to take our time in getting the facts right," Shaw said. "That's what we're going to do. We're still going to have the conversations."

The forum won't be an inquisition, he said, but a way for legislators to gather information.

Legislators will ask superintendents from a range of districts - those that hired staff and those that laid off people - to come in for the budget talk.

"It's not just cherry-picking counties that lost positions or counties that added positions," Shaw asid. "We'll try to get a good sampling of them."

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