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Morning Memo: Perdue closes her campaign for good, leave Democratic party hanging

PERDUE CLOSES CAMPAIGN ACCOUNT: From AP: Former N.C. Gov. Beverly Perdue has closed her campaign accounts, distributing the more than $1.2 million political war chest raised for her derailed 2012 re-election bid. Nearly $800,000 went to the Democrat and her husband to repay personal loans made to her political campaigns between 2000 and 2008, according to campaign finance disclosure reports filed last week with the N.C. Board of Elections.

Another $200,000 went to a pair of writers assisting Perdue with her autobiography and about $120,000 went to a charity. Most of the remainder was paid to lawyers and campaign staff.

***Find out who Perdue left off her campaign spending list below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

By one vote, Cowell's bill for pension investment flexibility survives

By a rare narrow vote, the House Finance Committee approved a bill Wednesday to give State Treasurer Janet Cowell more flexibility to invest the state's pension money, even after the panel weakened the measure.

The 14-13 vote reflects the ardent opposition from the State Employees Association of North Carolina, which is concerned about the risk of moving into alternative investments and opposes Cowell's sole management of the retirement fund.

Cowell appeared at the meeting to push to increase the current 34 percent total cap on private asset investments, such as hedge funds and real estate, saying the state's $80 billion pension portfolio is too limited to stocks and bonds. She said with the stock market at all-time highs and interest rates about to rise, the current investment strategy is not sustainable.

Janet Cowell uses CNBC interview to push for more investment flexibility

State Treasurer Janet Cowell took to national TV this week to make a case for why she needs more flexibility when it comes to managing the state's $80 million pension fund.

Cowell told CNBC's "Fast Money" on Tuesday evening that stocks and bonds are not safe bets right now. The state's retirement money is heavily invested in these areas. "Fixed income is one of the highest risk places you can have your money and that means you're not going to have the money you need for retirement if you are putting your money in bonds,” Cowell said on the show. “Alternatives look increasingly attractive given the volatility of the stock market.”

State treasurer warns lawmakers pension fund needs more flexibility, or else

State Treasurer Janet Cowell is urging lawmakers to give her more flexibility to invest the state’s pension money, warning that is is “very unlikely” returns will meet projections without the change.

In a recent letter to legislative leaders, Cowell said returns on the state’s $80 billion pension fund are in jeopardy because global stock markets are hitting an all-time high and bond returns are expected to fall. If the state doesn’t meet the 7.25 percent return rate, Cowell said the taxpayers may be on the hook to buttress the promised retirement benefits.

Document(s):
SB558 letter to General Assembly.pdf

Morning Memo: Controversial bills bubble up, Wos again in the spotlight

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: As the final two days of the self-imposed crossover deadline begin, it's crunch time. You can tell from the lobbyists working the halls, either trying to get a bill to move or asking committee chairman to "pray on it" for a little while longer. And the controversial bills are coming the surface. A House committee will consider a bill to extend "protections of conscience" to more medical professionals and cover more things, such as providing contraception. In the same committee, another measure dubbed the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" is sure to recall attempts earlier this session to declare the state's ability to establish an official religion.

The full House - which convenes near 2 p.m. -- will also consider a bill to soften rules on where local governments must post public notices. A controversial amendment would tell newspapers how much they could charge for such advertisements. The Senate this afternoon will consider measures to amend environmental regulations and repeal local smoking bans. Gov. Pat McCrory is spending another day in New Orleans at a Republican Governor's Association event.

WOS ROADSHOW CONTINUES: A week after a major gaffe by Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos, her statewide tour to tout Medicaid reforms continues. She visits Durham on Wednesday where she will encounter members of the Medical Professionals for Expanded Health Access who expect to question her about the state's decision to reject a Medicaid expansion. Wos blamed Democratic Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin for the decision -- even though it was ultimately made by her boss, Gov. Pat McCrory. The event starts at 4 p.m.

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- a roundup of North Carolina political news and notes. Send tips to dome@newsobserver.com.***

Sunshine bill would disclose more state workers' personnel records

Capping off Sunshine Week, state Sen. Thom Goolsby has filed a bill that would pry open substantial personnel records of state workers.

SB332 would make public the reason that any state employee is fired, suspended, demoted or transferred, as well as promoted. Currently, only the reason for a promotion is public.

The Wilmington Republican’s bill would require a general description for the reason for the change in job status. It would also make employees’ job performance a public record.

The State Employees Association of North Carolina was quick to condemn the proposal, calling it “one big bad idea.” SEANC, in an emailed newsletter sent out Friday, said, “The bill would serve no legitimate purpose; it simply would create a forum for gossip and potential lawsuits.”

SEANC steaming over new State Health Plan proposal

The State Employees Association of North Carolina is accusing state Treasurer Janet Cowell of rushing through a State Health Plan that would more than triple premiums.

The proposal, which will be voted on by a health plan board of trustees in the Treasurer’s Office on Monday, was presented to House and Senate leaders and SEANC on Thursday.

According to SEANC legislative affairs director Ardis Watkins, the board originally called for a meeting on Super Bowl Sunday, before rescheduling.

Updated

SEANC fixes TV ad, but Dan Forest's campaign still cries foul

Republicans are crying foul about a scathing attack ad against lieutenant governor candidate Dan Forest.

The State Employees Association of North Carolina paid for the spot, which touts Democratic candidate Linda Coleman. But the 30-second spot didn't meet a legal requirement that the ad show the picture of the person who is reading the "paid for" disclaimer.

The N.C. Republican Party sent a complaint to state election officials Wednesday and SEANC fixed the ad the same day.

Morning Roundup: State GOP leaders knew about Goldman-Malone troubles

N.C. Republican Party leaders were aware of a reported relationship between Wake County school board members Debra Goldman and Chris Malone, yet they still discouraged other potential GOP candidates from opposing Goldman in her run for state auditor, a former opponent said Tuesday. After voting Tuesday, Pat McCrory wouldn't say whether he supported Goldman. Read the full story here.

More political headlines:

--The state employees association unveiled a website Tuesday that highlights the GOP lieutenant governor candidate Dan Forest's thoughts on  “Islamic extremists” who want to impose Shariah law and a United Nations plan for sustainable development called Agenda 21. “He is probably the most radical candidate who’s ever run for North Carolina office,” said Dana Cope, the group's leader.

State Employees ad paints GOP Lt. Gov. candidate as an extremist

The State Employees Association of North Carolina launched a statewide ad supporting Democrat Linda Coleman in the lieutenant governor's race that says her  GOP opponent Dan Forest holds extreme positions on the minimum wage and women's healthcare.

The initial media buy is $200,000, according to SEANC.

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