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Morning Memo: McCrory promises big changes; Democrats hit Ellmers

GOV. MCCRORY PROMISES BIG CHANGES COMING: Days after releasing a modest state budget and weeks after a tepid State of the State address, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory is promsing big things. "Now we're moving into policy," he told a Chamber crowd Wednesday. The News-Record hits the highlights of what we should expect: "McCrory said the state Department of Transportation will be “revamping” how it finances and distributes money. ... McCrory said he’ll have “major announcements on Medicaid reform” next week, and that his administration is “completely revamping” the state’s commerce department. ... He said his tax plan should be ready within weeks and reaffirmed a desire to cut income and corporate tax rates to the lower levels of neighboring states. ... He said major announcements are coming on the state’s job recruitment efforts at the N.C. Department of Commerce, which new director Sharon Decker said last week may privatize many of its functions."

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The Senate convenes at 11 a.m. to hear a Mecklenburg property tax measure. The House meets at noon to hear a bill to repeal taxpayer funded judicial elections and another bill that favors Blue Cross Blue Shield. At the Capitol, McCrory and Public Safety Secretary Kieran Shanahan will announce at 10 a.m. the new Highway Patrol commander, Alcohol Law Enforcement director and State Capitol Police chief at a swearing-in ceremony.

Also on the political calendar: Mayors Against Illegal Guns is promoting a day of action to push its background-check legislation; a group of area university and college professors host a 5 p.m. forum at Duke University titled, "Save Our State: Scholars Speak Out on North Carolina's New Direction"; and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush appears at Guilford College for a 7:30 p.m. event with former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley, hosted by PBS's Gwen Ifill. This is likely Bush's his first visit to the state since the release of his book and open talk about running for president in 2016.

***Good morning! Happy "Friday" to state employees with tomorrow's holiday. Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- the source for North Carolina political news. Send tips and news to dome@newsobserver.com. More headlines below.***

Ellmers: GOP men made mistakes that costed party in 2012

Congresswoman Renee Ellmers said the Republican Party -- particularly its men -- made "unnecessary mistakes" that cost the party the presidential election.

Ellmers, a Republican who represents Dunn, argued that her party needed to focus more on President Barack Obama's record, particularly when it comes to appealing to women.

"As Republican women, we know what it takes to care for our families. We are the ones managing the household budgets, fighting for our children's education, and searching for the best healthcare for our loved ones. The policy issues that are affecting our nation affect us on a personal level and mimic the same tough choices we are faced with every day," Ellmers said in a Yahoo News chat Thursday about how the GOP can better appeal to women voters. "Oddly, enough, many of the mistakes were made by the men in our party. And this only fueled the misconception that the GOP does not care about women."

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest new potential leader in 2014 Senate poll

"Another month, another frontrunner" -- that's how Public Policy Polling's Tom Jensen described the latest U.S. Senate numbers in North Carolina.

As previewed in the Morning Memo, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest leads the potential GOP field with 18 percent, according to the March poll from the Democratic firm. When Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry landed at the top of the heap in February poll, she went public saying she was looking at the U.S. Senate race. Forest? His office has yet to return a message from early this morning seeking comment. Even though he narrowly squeaked out a victory in November, his political views would put him in a good position for a GOP primary. (See the full PPP results here.)

Morning Memo: Emails show Tata's troubles as former Wake education chief

TATA'S TUMULTOUS TENURE AS SCHOOLS CHIEF REVEALED: Newly released email shows that former Wake County Superintendent Tony Tata -- and now state Transportation Secretary -- spent his final month in office surrounded by growing distress and concern from school board members and parents over his handling of the school bus problems and student assignment. More than 3,400 pages of email released this week as part of a public records request by news media organizations, including The News & Observer, show how much the bus fiasco affecting thousands of families was a daily concern during the first month of school. (More on this story below.)

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: A bill to limit local governments from requiring inspections of homes in some instances -- a measure that is opposed by environmental groups -- is on the House calendar. The House will also consider legislation to make it a felony for a parent to fail to report a missing child, dubbed Caylee's Law after the Caylee Anthony case, in which the 2-year-old was found dead and her mother didn't report her missing for a month. At 10 a.m., Senate committee will consider (for discussion only) a midwife bill and a measure to put teeth in the state's public records law. On the Senate floor later in the day, the "red route" bill gets a final vote with toll road language attached. Gov. Pat McCrory is making an economic development announcement in Raleigh at 1 p.m.

***Good morning. Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo. Click below more more North Carolina political news and analysis. Send tips and news to dome@newsobserver.com.***

Leading lights of conservative movement converge in Raleigh

A confluence of big-name players will converge in Raleigh on Friday and Saturday for the Civitas Institute’s Conservative Leadership Conference.

Among the speakers: Jim DeMint, former U.S. Senator from South Carolina and now head of the Heritage Foundation; Michelle Malkin, author and Fox News contributor; and James O’Keefe, self-described “video muckracker.”

Local luminaries include state Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby, U.S. Rep. George Holding, U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers, state Senate leader Phil Berger, state House Speaker Thom Tillis, and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest.

The two-day event is at the Crabtree Marriott in Raleigh.

Ellmers receives award from American Conservative Union

The American Conservative Union has named U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers of Dunn one of its 2012 ACU Conservatives.

A whopping 91 percent of Ellmers' votes made the ACU happy, but she still fell short of its Defender of Liberty title which requires every vote on certain bills picked by ACU to match the organization's desires. ACU looks at votes on bills that "serve as a clear litmus test separating those representatives who defend liberty and liberal members who have turned their backs on our founding principles."

The ACU argues for limited government, individual liberty, free markets, a strong national defense and traditional values.

Other N.C. representatives who scored above 80 percent included Howard Coble of Greensboro, Virginia Foxx of Banner Elk, Patrick McHenry of Cherryville and Sue Myrick of Charlotte, who is now retired.

The ACU award comes the day after the Club for Growth — which supports limited growth and low taxes — tagged Ellmers as a RINO (Republican In Name Only) and put her on a a list of Republicans that scored below 70 percent on the club's scorecard.

Ellmers on Club for Growth most unwanted list

Republican U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers a liberal? Who knew?

The congresswoman from Dunn, who is serving her second term representing the state's 2nd Congressional District, is on the list of Republicans that the limited government, low-tax group Club for Growth wants out.

The Club for Growth has Ellmers on its PrimaryMyCongressman website, where people are supposed to suggest primary opponents for Republicans elected to Congress scoring below 70 percent on the Club's scorecard. The site criticizes Ellmers for siding with House GOP leadership too often.

Tagging Ellmers as a Republican In Name Only seems to conflict with a recent National Journal assessment, which said she was the 43rd most conservative U.S. House member. The National Journal scored her as more conservative than Republican House colleagues Virginia Foxx, Patrick McHenry, Howard Coble and Walter Jones.

Ellmers easily survived a primary last year on her way to winning a re-election.

Hagan ranks in Senate's ideological middle; Ellmers among most conservative

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan ranks in the ideological middle, according to the latest rankings from the National Journal. The Democrat, who faces re-election in 2014, ranks the 48th most liberal of the 100 senators, or 52 most conservative, depending on how you look at it.

Her Republican counterpart U.S. Sen. Richard Burr is the 23rd most conservative member in the chamber, the nonpartisan national political magazine found. National Journal ranked the lawmakers on 116 votes that showed differences in ideological viewpoint in the 112th Congress.

Among Democrats in the House, Congressman David Price is the most liberal at No. 32, followed by Mel Watt (45), former U.S. Rep. Brad Miller (83), G.K. Butterfield (121). On the Republican side, former U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick was the 32nd most conservative, followed by Reps. Renee Ellmers (43), Virginia Foxx (55), Patrick McHenry (62), Howard Coble (153) and Walter Jones (242).

Foxx: NC will be site of one of nation's hottest Senate race

Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx says North Carolina Democrats are preparing for a major battle in defending Sen. Kay Hagan's seat in 2014.

“It's gonna be one of the biggest Senate race in the country,” Foxx told POLITICO this weekend while in Washington to attend the inaugural. “And that's going to be a fight.''

North Carolina Democrats took a drubbing on election day.

“I think it's incumbent on North Carolina Democrats to do what national Republicans are doing, which is to huddle up and figure out what happened and to think about what the implications are and what happened and to think about what the implications are and what needs to happen going forward to build a case for progressive politics in North Carolina.''

Hagan leads prospective GOP opponents in 2014 race

North Carolina voters are divided about Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, but she leads any of prospective Republican opponents, according to a new poll.

Only 34 percent of voters approve of the job that Hagan is doing, while 36 percent disapprove, and 31 percent have no opinion, according to a survey by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic leaning firm based in Raleigh.

But Hagan leads all potential opponents. She leads GOP Congresswoman Renee Ellmers by a 46-40 percent margin, Congressman Patrick McHenry by a 45-39 percent margin, and Congresswoman Virginia Foxx by a 47-40 percent margin.

She also leads Congressman George Holding by a 45-37 percent margin, Congressman Robert Pittenger by a 46-38 percent margin, state Senate leader Phil Berger by a 47-38 percent margin, and state House Speaker Thom Tillis by a 47-37 percent margin.

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