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Morning Memo: Protests return to Raleigh; DHHS faces more bad headlines

UPDATED: 'MORAL MONDAY' PROTESTS RETURN TO RALEIGH: The weekly protests that came to define the 2013 legislative session return to Raleigh on Monday. The focus is voting rights and public education and the demonstrations will be led by a coalition of youth organizers. The 4:30 p.m. protest will take place at the Executive Mansion -- not the Legislative Building as during the session. A similar event will take place in Rockingham.

Gov. Pat McCrory won't be home for the Raleigh event. He's in Charleston, S.C., today attending a Republican Governors Association Corporate Policy Summit, where he is moderating a panel on tax reform at a conference that draws lobbyist and donors.

MORE BAD HEADLINES: The bad headlines surrounding the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services are reverberating onto the opinion pages of the state's newspapers. Three publications across the state featured editorials or op-eds about the controversy at the department and Gov. Pat McCrory's actions. The headlines: "Youthful Republican brain trust helps governor miss the boat on Medicaid expansion;" "How a bad relationship between DHHS and the press can harm the public;" and "McCrory's shameless cronyism"

***Read the pieces and more N.C. political news below in today's Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: Amid controversy, political hire further fans DHHS flames

ANOTHER POLITICAL HIRE IN AGENCY UNDER FIRE: Former McCrory campaign filmmaker will work on DHHS 'brand' A lobbyist and filmmaker who made an election-night video for Gov. Pat McCrory is the new brand and marketing manager at the state Department of Health and Human Services. Aaron Mullins, 38, started the job Sept. 4. He makes $68,000 a year.

Mullins is one of several new staff members at state agencies with political connections. Ricky Diaz, who worked on McCrory’s campaign, is a spokesman at DHHS making $85,000. Heather Jeffreys, finance director for McCrory’s campaign, has a communications job at the N.C. Department of Transportation making $58,879. Read more here.

***Get a statewide political news roundup below in the Dome Morning Memo -- and look for more polling numbers on the govenror later today.***

Morning Memo: Lawmakers return for overrides; elections board hears appeals

Lawmakers return to Raleigh on Tuesday to consider overriding vetoes of two immigration and drug-testing-for-welfare-recipients bills. House Republican leaders may think they have enough votes, but Republican Gov. Pat McCrory has been fighting to the end to sway them, using new media to get his points across and relying on old-fashioned endorsements.

The governor isn't the only one using the veto-session to highlight legislative issues. ***Get more on it all below in today's Dome Morning Memo, along with a holiday weekend news roundup.***

Morning Memo: McCrory's approval slips again, as he defends voter ID and prepares veto pen

ALERT: PAT McCRORY'S APPROVAL RATING FALLS TO 39 PERCENT A new Public Policy Polling survey set for release later Thursday shows the Republican governor's approval rating dipping to the 30s for the first time in his term. It's a slight slip from a month earlier but indicates his approval rating is not improving as he signs controversial legislation on abortion, voter ID and guns. The Raleigh-based Democratic firm found McCrory's approval at 39 percent and disapproval at 51 percent. Another 10 percent are unsure. The numbers represent a huge point slide from when he took office in January with a 45 percent approval and 19 percent disapproval rating.

Another number in the poll suggests half of voters believe he broke his campaign pledge on abortion. The poll has a margin of error of 4 percentage points. Check Dome later today for more numbers.

NEW YORK TIMES A1 HEADLINE: North Carolinians fear the end of a middle way: The story rehashes the rightward shift from the legislative session and focuses on Pat McCrory's tough spot. Campbell Robertson writes: "In an interview, Mr. McCrory said that critics had obscured what he called a pragmatic and fiscally responsible agenda. “It’s a combination of people on the two extremes wanting to bring up and exaggerate controversial issues,” he said, adding that he had pushed back against earlier versions of the abortion and tax bills, and was planning to veto other bills this week." Read the full story here.

***The governor keeps threatening a veto. Find out the likely target below in the Dome Morning Memo. And get his thoughts on the voter ID bill.***

1376508601 Morning Memo: McCrory's approval slips again, as he defends voter ID and prepares veto pen 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: GOP moves to limit early voting as budget debate begins

REPUBLICANS MOVE TO CURTAIL EARLY VOTING: Republicans are moving in the final days of the legislative session to cut early voting by a week, limit Sunday voting and curtail some voter registration efforts in a sweeping bill that is expected to debut Tuesday. The measure also may advance the state's presidential primary to a week after South Carolina's first-in-the-South contest. The last-minute election measures will appear in a Senate bill requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. (Check Dome for more on the bill later today.)

EDUCATION FOCUS OF BUDGET DEBATE: The N.C. Association of Educators is threatening to sue over the tenure provisions in the state budget. State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson said for the first time in her 30-year career, she fears for the future of public education. “I am truly worried about the ongoing starvation of our public schools,” she said. “I see other states making a commitment to public education. In our state I see in this budget we’re cutting teachers, we’re cutting teacher assistants, we’re cutting instructional support.”

With education as the focus, the House and Senate will take budget votes Tuesday and Wednesday as they race toward the end of session.

***More on the state budget and other North Carolina political news below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

NAACP, Democratic voters appeal redistricting ruling

The state NAACP, a group of Democratic voters and other voter-rights organizations are taking their fight against the legislative and congressional boundaries drawn by Republicans to the state’s highest court.

“We know, without a doubt that the battle for voting rights is one that must be won,” the Rev. William Barber, head of the state NAACP, said on the Wake County courthouse steps on Monday. “We know we’re in a battle for the ballot.”

Their notice of appeal comes two weeks after a panel of three Superior Court judges validated the legislative and congressional districts intended to be used through the 2020 elections. They had 30 days to decide whether to appeal to the N.C. Supreme Court. Read more here.

Morning Memo: All eyes on the House, NAACP fires back at McCrory

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The budget and tax watch continues. House and Senate lawmakers are negotiating on both issues this week hoping to break the logjam. Some movement may emerge later this week. In House committees, lawmakers will discuss a power shift at the Charlotte airport, a sweeping bill to weaken environmental protections and consider four election-related bills. With the election bills, it’s not so much what’s in them now -- but how they may get amended. Talk is rampant about an highly-controversial omnibus elections bill. The chambers convene at 2 p.m. The abortion bill is in limbo but not likely to come to a House vote Wednesday -- though stranger things have happened. After a one-day delay, the Senate will debate a bill to impose drug testing and background checks on some welfare recipients.

NAACP PRESIDENT CALLS McCRORY REMARKS 'DISINGENUOUS': Gov. Pat McCrory's take on "Moral Mondays" didn't sit well with Rev. William Barber, the N.C. NAACP president who is leading the weekly demonstrations. In a statement, Barber said McCrory is trying to "play nice and move away from his original comments about Moral Monday protestors being outsiders." He compared McCrory's words to George Wallace, who dismissed segregation as a few isolated instances.

***Read more reaction below -- and get the latest North Carolina political news and analysis -- in today's Dome Morning Memo.***

McCrory decry's 'Moral Monday' label, touts respect

UPDATED: Gov. Pat McCrory softened his language Monday about the thousands of demonstrators flooding the statehouse each week to protest the Republican agenda. Speaking to reporters, McCrory seemed to retreat from his language that they were "outsiders" trying to stir up trouble.

He asked them to remain respectful -- citing himself as an example. To the point, McCrory said the term "Moral Monday" is a misnomer. "Listen, we should have respectful differences, but to say one is moral, which gives the reference that one is immoral, on a political dispute ... I think is quite misleading," he said. "I respectfully disagree with some of those who are protesting against me, but from that disagreement I'm not judging them on their personal character."

Morning Memo: NC's new brand; protests expected to swell

NORTH CAROLINA'S NEW BRAND: "North Carolina’s national brand may be changing – but not the way Gov. Pat McCrory intended when he talked during his campaign about the Tar Heel state undergoing an image makeover," writes columnist Rob Christensen. "… The new brand that McCrory seems to want is that North Carolina is more business-friendly. But since he took office in January, the state has been undergoing a brand change of a very different kind. The sharp rightward turn of the legislature and the Moral Monday protests have turned North Carolina into one of the nation’s top political spectacles. … The national coverage is worth millions of dollars of publicity. Unfortunately for North Carolina, it may also be the wrong kind of publicity." Read more here.

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: They’re back! The House, after taking off a week to let its conflicts with the Senate – taxes, budgets, gun control – simmer, will be back in town Monday night. The calendar is mostly low-profile, local bills except for a final vote on the bill creating a separate regulatory board for charter schools. The state charter school board would be responsible for handing out new charters and shutting down inadequate schools. The bill would dilute the state Board of Education’s powers. The Senate passed the bill in May. Also back: Moral Monday demonstrations, which are expected to draw huge crowds after the Senate's approval of a major abortion bill.

***Get a complete roundup of political news from the extended holiday weekend below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: Voter ID on hold, as taxes takes stage

VOTER ID STILL ON HOLD: From AP: The Senate is putting on hold for another week debating legislation that would require photo identification to vote in person in North Carolina. Rules committee Chairman Tom Apodaca of Hendersonville said previously a voter ID bill and legislation with broader election changes would be unveiled this week. Apodaca said Monday that won't happen until next week because Republicans are still working on the legislation. He declined to provide details.

MONDAY ARRESTS AT LEGISLATURE NEAR 700: About 80 more people were arrested outside the legislative chambers Monday after a rally attracted thousands outside. Earlier in the day, lawyers, professors and religious leaders who were among the first to get arrested were in Wake County District Court. Concerned about mounting court costs, Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby has encouraged General Assembly Police Chief Jeff Weaver to consider issuing citations rather than arresting the protesters. Weaver said, however, that arresting them gives law enforcement officers a way to disperse the crowd.

***In the Dome Morning Memo below, find a GOP lawmaker's thoughts on why the Confederacy lost the war, reaction to the Senate's final tax plan and more N.C. political news and analysis.***

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