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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: New poll gives Hagan the edge; Hillary Clinton bashes NC voter law

U.S. SENATE POLL: Politico is offering a sneak peek at the latest U.S. Senate poll numbers in North Carolina this morning. Public Policy Polling shows Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan with an eight-point edge in hypothetical matchups against Republicans Thom Tillis and Phil Berger. Both legislative leaders, along with other possible candidates, have negative approval ratings with many voters still not sure what to think. The margin of error is 4 percentage points. Look for more numbers from PPP when the poll is released later today.

VOTER ID, ELECTIONS BILL SIGNED: The implications of Gov. Pat McCrory's signature on the elections bill that requires a voter ID at the polls is far-reaching -- and so is the coverage. Get a round up below -- including Hillary Clinton's comments on the bill, a new PPP poll showing it unfavorable and more. Also, a story from Boone shows Republicans taking over local elections boards will likewise mean major changes.

***The Dome Morning Memo continues below. Thanks for reading.***

Morning Memo: House goes into OT, GOP pushes major bills in final moments

OVERTIME AT THE STATEHOUSE: What day is it again? The legislation continues its Friday session later this morning -- the one it started at 12:01 a.m. “Good morning, everybody,” House Speaker Thom Tillis said as he gavel in a new legislative day. The 9 a.m. session is one more than expected but House lawmakers didn’t want to stay past 1 a.m. to finish their work like the Senate, expecting lengthy debates. The House session is expected to last a couple hours. On the calendar: the “technical corrections” state budget bill that includes $2 million for the governor’s office to spend on innovative education programs -- a last-minute request from State Budget Director Art Pope’s office, budget writers said. Also: a final vote on a sweeping regulatory overhaul measure.

The big item left unfinished: Gov. Pat McCrory’s commerce bill. The fracking language added to the reorganization measure in conference doomed its chances in the house. (Special session, anyone?)

LEGISLATIVE SESSION ENDS WITH A FLURRY OF ACTION: Abortion. Voter ID. Massive changes to state regulations. Charlotte airport. It’s all headed to Gov. Pat McCrory. If you went to bed too soon, read it all below in the ***Dome Morning Memo.*** Along with Tillis campaign news.

Groups fight over a nonexistent lawsuit

The N.C. Association of Educators is threatening to sue over the voucher provisions in the state budget.

The budget includes $10 million to spend next year to pay private school tuition beginning in the 2014-15 school year for children from families that meet income limits.

There's no voucher program yet, and no lawsuit. But that' hasn't stopped the cross-talk between NCAE and voucher proponent Parents for Educational Freedom that's come in the form of letters to legislators.

NCAE President Rodney Ellis sent legislators a letter Monday saying the NCAE would "immediately pursue legal challenges" against "the constitutionality of taxpayer dollars to be used for private and for-profit schools."

Darrell Allision, president of Parents for Educational Freedom, responded with his own letter to legislators dated Wednesday calling the lawsuit threat "misguided at best."

Politicians, advocates react strongly to GOP budget plan

The Republican-crafted $20.6 billion state budget is eliciting strong reactions from across the North Carolina political spectrum. Much of it focuses on the education funding changes. One person yet to respond: Gov. Pat McCrory. But in the meantime, check out a roundup of statements below.

--Senate Democratic Leader Martin Nesbitt: “With this budget and last week’s tax bill, we can clearly see the Republican agenda: hoarding power in Raleigh and cutting vital services to the middle class in order to pay for massive handouts to the wealthiest 1% and out-of-state corporations. This is ‘big-government’ conservatism that prioritizes power over people and special interests and the super-wealthy over middle class families."

North Carolina ranks No. 48 in per student spending, average teacher salaries

Only three states are expected to spend less per student than North Carolina in the current school year, according to the latest rankings from the National Education Association.

North Carolina's per pupil spending for the 2012-13 school year is estimated at $8,433 with only Texas, Utah and Arizona spending less per student. The U.S. average is $11,068.

The state also ranks No. 48 in teacher salary among the 50 states and District of Columbia in the current school year, paying an average $45,947. Only Oklahoma, Mississippi and South Dakota pay less. The U.S. average is $56,383.

Both rankings in per pupil spending and average teacher salary represent a decline in the NEA rankings from the previous year. North Carolina spent $8,492 per student in the 2011-2012 school year and paid an average teacher salary of $46,605.

Board of Ed lobbyist moves to NCAE

The N.C. Association of Educators has hired Ann McColl to be its first in-house lawyer.

In addition to legal work, she'll work on policy and lobbying.

McColl moves to NCAE from her job as lobbyist for the State Board of Education, where she's been for about two years.

"Ann brings a wealth of experience, talent, and commitment to our Association's work," said NCAE President Rodney Ellis. "Whether the issue is employment, working conditions, or education reform, Ann believes that educators deserve a strong voice. NCAE is stronger with Ann on our team."

McCrory not backing down from support of controversial charter school

The N.C. teachers association is hitting Republican Pat McCrory for his support of a  charter school company being investigated in Florida for using uncertified teachers and asking school employees to hide the practice.

The company under fire is K12 Inc, a for-profit, publicly traded company. Earlier this year, McCrory singled out a school being proposed by the company during a speech in Asheboro. “I am a firm believer in competition and support charter schools," McCrory said, according to local reports. "I am supporting a virtual charter school in Concord."

K12 Inc. is facing national scrutiny and lawsuits about its educational rigor, the most recent being an inquiry launched earlier this month in Florida after documents showed that company officials asked teachers to take credit for classes and students that they didn't teach.

Given the questions, is McCrory reconsidering his support for the school? A spokesman for the gubernatorial candidate said no.

Teachers group endorses GOP House members

The N.C. Association of Educators, a group long associated with Democrats, announced endorsements Wednesday of three Republican House members over their Democratic challengers. 

Reps. Bryan Holloway of Stokes, Linda Johnson of Cabarrus, and Hugh Blackwell of Burke County won NCAE's nod in what the group said is its first round of legislative endorsements. The other 13 endorsements announced Wednesday all went to Democrats.

Holloway and Blackwell are House education budget writers. Johnson is a co-chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee.

The House pushed money toward the K-12 budget this year, though not all made it into the final budget.

"These three legislative leaders were courageous, strong and vocal for public school educators and students this past short session, and our educators are going to be strong and vocal in working for their re-election this November," NCAE President Rodney Ellis said in a statement.

Inside the clockwork at the state legislature


To add context to the unprecedented midnight session last week, the N&O analyzed more than 19,000 votes at the N.C. General Assembly since 2001 to see how often lawmakers took action in the early morning hours.

Nowhere did we find lawmakers starting a different session after midnight -- that remains its own record. But the analysis found that less than 1 percent of all votes are cast after midnight. It weakens Republican claims that late votes are common and adds weight to Democrats and open government advocates concerns about transparency. To read the full story, go here. And here's a few more interesting facts:

-- 7 a.m. was the only hour in which a vote was not taken.

-- Of the 170 votes taken between 12:01 a.m. and 6:23 a.m., the top three issues were the budget, education and taxes.

-- The bulk of votes – 45 percent – occurred between 2 and 5 p.m.

-- 2001 and 2008 were the only years without post-midnight votes.

-- In 2010, during the short session under Democratic leaders Marc Basnight and Joe Hackney, there were 31 votes after midnight, nearly 4 percent of all votes taken that year.

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