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Cooper changes his committee to make it more gubernatorial

In another sign that Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper is laying the ground work for a gubernatorial bid in 2016, he has officially changed the name of his political committee from Cooper for Attorney General to Cooper for North Carolina.

Cooper has stepped up his visibility and has been privately telling Democrats of his interest in challenging Republican Gov. Pat McCrory.

Two Democrats have already announced, former state Rep. Ken Spaulding of Durham and former Chapel Hill town council member James Protzman.

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;

Morning Memo: 'Moral Mondays' grow; McCrory defends pay hikes

’MORAL MONDAY’ PROTESTS EXPAND: Moral Monday, the North Carolina protest movement that comes to Charlotte on Monday afternoon, was organized to counter the policies of the Republican-controlled General Assembly.The protests, which have received national attention, are not only grounded in religion but expanding their reach into churches. Organizers say they seek to reclaim the language of political morality.

Protesters from the Charlotte area are to gather in Marshall Park at 5 p.m. Elsewhere in the state, similar protests are scheduled Monday in the Yancey County town of Burnsville and in coastal Manteo. Read more here.

GOV. HUNT TELLS DEMOCRATS TO DO MORE: Former Gov. Jim Hunt delivered a pep talk to grassroots leaders of the state’s beleaguered Democratic Party on Saturday night, where he emphasized the basics of winning elections. Hunt told the crowd at a reception named partly in his honor to appeal to independent voters, run good candidates and raise money. "We’re not exactly the party of money," Hunt said, "but we can do more than we’ve done."

***Hear more from the Democratic Party meeting and get the latest N.C. political news below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Attorney general would avoid losing half his legal staff, under new bill

Attorney General Roy Cooper has dodged a big bullet: the governor’s proposal to transfer half of his legal staff out from under his control.

In a technical corrections bill to the new budget, unveiled late Thursday in a Senate committee, only 19 positions would be transferred.

Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposed budget would have moved 210 attorneys and support staff from the state Department of Justice to 14 different state agencies where they already specialize. The move would put them under the budgetary control and supervision of those agencies.

Cooper says SBI needs independence, move risks cover-ups

From AP: North Carolina's Democratic attorney general is opposing a state Senate budget provision that moves much of an investigative unit from his department to one headed by an appointee of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory.

Roy Cooper spoke against the idea Monday, alongside police chiefs and prosecutors who also oppose moving the State Bureau of Investigation to the Department of Public Safety, which includes all other law enforcement agencies. Opponents argued the move will inhibits the agency's independence from the executive branch, but they stopped short of calling it politically motivated.

Housing the agency under a department controlled by the governor runs counter to the SBI's mission, he added. "Putting the SBI under any governor's administration increases the risk that corruption and cover-up occur with impunity," Cooper said.

But Republican senators argued the unit is better grouped with the rest of the state's law enforcement divisions to enhance coordination among the agencies. The Republican budget estimates $2 million in savings from the consolidation in its second year. "It simply does not make sense for the state's top attorney to supervise the SBI, just like it wouldn't make sense for your local district attorney to supervise your sheriffs or police," said House Majority Leader Harry Brown, R-Onslow and one of the chamber's chief budget-writers. More here.

Cartoon: McCrory stuck on driver's license issue

Charlotte Observer cartoonist Kevin Siers picked up on Gov. Pat McCrory's silence on the issue of whether immigrants here under a federal program should get driver's licenses.

Morning Memo: McCrory-Cooper face off on immigrant driver's licenses

UPDATED: McCRORY-COOPER SHOWDOWN: Republican Gov. Pat McCrory's Division of Motor Vehicles is refusing to issue immigrants in the deferred action program driver's licenses but Democrat Attorney General Roy Cooper says they must.

The state Attorney General’s office said Thursday that young illegal immigrants participating in an Obama administration program blocking deportation for two years should be eligible for driving privileges in North Carolina, but by day’s end it wasn’t clear whether the DMV would issue them. But by late Thursday, more than five hours after the opinion was released, acting DMV Commissioner J. Eric Boyette said DMV officials had not formulated their response. “We have just received the ruling from the Attorney General’s office regarding driver’s licenses for people in the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program today and we are in the process of reviewing it,” Boyette said by email.

***This is the Dome Morning Memo, a roundup of political news and analysis in North Carolina.

Civil rights groups press AG Cooper, DMV on immigrant licenses

Lawyers for two civil rights groups called on state officials today to reinstate a policy that made driver’s licenses available to young illegal immigrants who are taking part in a federal program that blocks their deportation for two years (see their letter, below).

“They have all the required documents,” said Kate Woomer-Deters, an immigrant rights advocate with the N.C. Justice Center. “They have an employment authorization card showing their legal presence in the country. They are fully eligible for North Carolina driver’s licenses.”

The state Division of Motor Vehicles says it has stopped issuing the licenses, pending a ruling from state Attorney General Roy Cooper on whether an estimated 180,000 young men and women in the state who are eligible for the federal program are also eligible to drive under state law. Get the full story on the Road Worrier blog.

Common Cause asks N.C. attorney general to investigate ALEC

An advocacy group is asking Attorney General Roy Cooper to investigate the tax status of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group that counts House Speaker Thom Tillis as one of its top members.

Common Cause sent the letter Tuesday just weeks after it filed a whistleblower complaint against ALEC with the IRS, saying they are operating as a tax-exempt nonprofit while lobbying state legislatures across the country.

"Common Cause has discovered compelling evidence that ALEC is a corporate lobby masquerading as a charity. ALEC’s compliance with state tax, gift, solicitation and lobbying laws should be reviewed by your office and/or appropriate state regulatory authorities," the letter states.


GOP candidate for governor slams Roy Cooper's stance on marriage amendment

Paul Wright, a little known Republican candidate for governor, is slamming Attorney General Roy Cooper for his statement against the constitutional amendment on marriage.

Wright writes this: "This is appalling. As a former Superior Court judge, I saw many laws that could have been better written and yet I had the duty to enforce them. Mr. Cooper has already disappointed many by not joining our sister states (VA, GA, and SC) in the lawsuit currently before the Supreme Court against Obama Care. He decided that North Carolina should sit on the sidelines in this epic struggle. Now it appears Mr. Cooper does not want the marriage amendment. I publicly ask all Republicans, conservatives, and particularly all candidates for Governor to request the Attorney General to not interfere and let the people decide and vote their conscience on this amendment May 8th."

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