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Pat McCrory signs remaining bills on his desk, punts on one

The regulatory measure Gov. Pat McCrory signed is one of 33 bills he endorsed Friday, the final batch from a prolonged legislative session. The governor left one measure unsigned: a bill to prevent North Carolina courts from recognizing Islamic Sharia law in family cases. In a statement, he called House Bill 522 “unnecessary.”

All told this session, McCrory signed 334 bills, vetoing two more and allowing two to become law without his signature. (The other is a measure transferring control of the Asheville water system.) Among the others signed Friday include measure to:

--Grant Republican legislative leaders the ability to intervene in a lawsuit to defend laws and the constitution, such as the state’s gay marriage ban, rather than reserving this standing to the N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat;

Cowell says state pension fund had good year

North Carolina's pension fund returned 9.52 percent for the fiscal year ending June 30th, state Treasurer Janet Cowell said Thursday.

Cowell said the return beat the 7.25 percent long-term target rate of return and the market bench mark of 8.4 percent.

The fixed income portfolio, which accounts for a third of the fund, lost 0.75 percent of rthe year and 3.61 percent for the quarter because of near record-low interest rates. She said that poses a challenge for the fund in the future.

"I am pleased that we reached a 9.52 percent return, which beats our target," Cowell said in a statement. "This is good news as we secure the retirement for thousand of North Carolina families. At the same time, the stock market is volatile and fixed income presents a long-term challenge. That's why I am glad the legislature granted additional investment flexibility so that we can take advantage of growth opportunities like credit and real estate.''

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: Moral Monday protesters in court ahead of 8th rally

MORAL MONDAY PROTESTERS GO TO COURT, RALLY AGAIN: The 8th Moral Monday protest starts about 5 p.m. today and Democratic Congressman David Price will attend and boost its profile. Earlier in the day, about 17 protesters are expected to appear in court -- the first hearing for any of the nearly 500 people arrested at the N.C. General Assembly during protests against the state's Republican leaders. They are likely to plead not guilty to three charges stemming from their arrest at the first demonstration in April. N.C. NAACP President Rev. William Barber will be one of those in court. More from AP here.

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The House and Senate convene at 7 p.m. The House has a handful of routine legislative matters on the calendar but the Senate is scheduled to take a final vote on the landfill bill, which critics say would create mega-dumps for out-of-state trash in North Carolina. Earlier in the day, the House Finance Committee will hold a much-debated public hearing on Senate Bill 315, a measure regarding water and sewer lines to a controversial development in Durham County. Gov. Pat McCrory will attend the Red Hat headquarters opening in downtown Raleigh at 10:30 a.m.

***Good Monday morning. Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo. Read about the Democrats' "Daddy Warbucks fantasy" and business experts reaction to the tax proposal below. ***

As questions are raised, Cowell backs pension investment flexibility

A Senate committee approved legislation Thursday to further loosening investing rules for the state pension fund at the request of Treasurer Janet Cowell, just as the fund's former investment head has been writing some stinging criticism about states that have ramped up their alternatives investments, Scott Mooneyham at the Insider reports.

Andy Silton, who served as chief investment officer during a portion of the terms of former State Treasurer Richard Moore, has gone as far as to question the moves into private equity and hedge funds during his time on the job here. "Unfortunately, we went ahead and implemented a program of investing in hedge funds and private equity. While our program didn’t do any harm, it didn’t help anyone but the money managers," Silton wrote recently.

Morning Memo: McCrory to announce Medicaid overhaul; big day at statehouse

McCRORY TO ANNOUNCE MEDICAID SYSTEM OVERHAUL: Gov. Pat McCrory rejected a Medicaid expansion earlier this year saying the system was broken and Wednesday morning he is expected to describe how he plans to fix it. The Republican has talked frequently about the rising costs of the healthcare system for select low-income and disabled residents and issued a video preview Tuesday saying he would create a "partnership" that will help keep costs low. Check Dome later today for more details from the 10 a.m. press conference.

***It's a jam-packed day in North Carolina politics. Get the full scoop on all the big stories from the Dome Morning Memo below. Send tips and news to dome@newsobserver.com.***

State treasurer's office raises financial concerns about airport transfer

The creation of a Charlotte airport authority would raise thorny legal issues involving airport debt and could even affect the cost of state borrowing, the N.C. Treasurer’s office said Monday.

Deputy Treasurer T. Vance Holloman said legal uncertainty over the airport’s $860 million debt “could result in potential prolonged litigation.” He said transfer of airport control from the city of Charlotte to a new authority “could affect the cost of borrowing and desirability of North Carolina revenue bonds.” He urged lawmakers to “proceed cautiously.”

Holloman made the comments in a letter to Sen. Bob Rucho, a Matthews Republican and a main sponsor of legislation that would create an independent, 13-member authority to run Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Full story here.

Janet Cowell makes magazine's list of Democrats to watch

State Treasurer Janet Cowell made Governing magazines's list of Democrats to watch at the state level.

The Governing writeup: "Cowell, the first woman to be elected North Carolina's treasurer, oversees more than $70 billion in pension fund investments for state employees. The daughter of a Methodist minister and public school teacher, Cowell earned an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and cut her teeth on Wall Street before moving to the (Tar Heel) State in 1997. She won election to the Raleigh city council in 2001, where she served two terms, then won a state Senate seat in 2004 before winning her first term as treasurer in 2008 against a respected GOP legislator. She was re-elected last fall, even as her fellow Democrats lost the governor's mansion and lost ground in both legislative chambers. North Carolina has been open to electing women to higher office in recent years, and Cowell could get more exposure than usual if the state legislature takes up tax reform this year -- an issue Cowell has emphasized during her tenure."

Janet Cowell adds staff, plans larger role as a leading Democrat

State Treasurer Janet Cowell is preparing to play a more prominent role in helping Democrats push their message amid complete Republican control of the lawmaking process.

Cowell, a second term Democrat, is adding staff and planning to expand her portfolio. "I do feel more incumbent to take a broader policy role," she said, given the dearth of prominent Democrats. "I sit on the school board --that's an area where when I was one of more Democrats I didn't have to take as much interest or carry the water where I may be having to do that now."

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