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State Board of Ed talks about "flat pathetic" teacher pay

State Board of Education member John Tate wants the board to back a resolution to bring teacher pay in the state to the national average.

Tate sprung his proposal on the board this week, calling teacher pay "flat pathetic." Teachers and state employees received one 1.2 percent raise in the last five years.

After years of concerted efforts to raise teacher to the national average, North Carolina was ranked 25th in 2008 by the National Education Association. The state has slipped since then, and is close to the bottom of national rankings.

"I feel like we have to send a message to our teachers as soon as possible," Tate said.

Morning Memo: In 2014 Senate salvo, Kay Hagan hits back at Phil Berger

KAY HAGAN CAMPAIGN HITS BACK: It seems like the 2014 U.S. Senate race is underway. Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan is responding to GOP Senate leader Phil Berger's new TV ad on voter ID. Berger is not an announced candidate but his TV ad sure makes it look like he is running -- hitting Hagan in the opening lines.

The Hagan campaign will release a point-by-point counter to the Berger ad Monday to highlight her opposition to voter ID and try to put focus on the other voting law changes deeper in the bill. “Kay is standing up for access to the ballot box for all voters because she believes this fundamental right shouldn’t be a political football,” said Preston Elliott, Hagan’s campaign manager, in a statement. “Phil Berger can self-promote all he wants, but at the end of the day, his disastrous record in the General Assembly and attempts to open up elections to corporate influence will speak for themselves. North Carolinians need leaders focused on jobs and rebooting the economy for middle class families, not politicians willing to mislead voters just to throw political potshots.”

VALERIE FOUSHEE TO REPLACE KINNAIRD: A Democratic Party committee chose first-term state Rep. Valerie Foushee of Chapel Hill on Sunday to fill former state Sen. Ellie Kinnaird’s vacant District 23 seat. Foushee thanked Democratic Party members and voters. The first thing the party needs to do is take back the Chatham County Board of Commissioners, she said to thunderous applause. “We have a lot of work to do,” said Foushee. “It’s already been expressed by every candidate. All of you read the papers, all of you are engaged, you know what we’re facing. I promise you I will continue to fight as I have fought. I will fight every day. You will hear from me. I will be present.” Read more here.

***Read more from the U.S. Senate campaign news and a look at political stories ahead this week below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: Two more headlines raise heat on McCrory administration

MORE HUGE SALARIES AT DHHS -- Secretary hired staffer from husband’s firm; McCrory’s office says he does a “helluva” good job: An adviser to state Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos has been paid more than $228,000 by the state for eight months of work.

The state Department of Health and Human Services signed a personal services contract with Joe Hauck to serve as “senior adviser” at the agency. The initial contract was extended at least four times between March 1 and Aug. 1, and was modified at least once to pay him more “due to increased hours of work per day,” according to a state Department of Health and Human Services contracts website. According to DHHS, Hauck started under contract in January to work in Wos’ office. The contract is now set to expire Nov. 30, and it is capped at $310,000.

TIMING OF SHANAHAN’S DEPARTURE RAISES MORE QUESTIONS: Kieran Shanahan’s unexpected resignation as head of the state’s public safety agency in July came as he appeared to be making long-term plans to remain in the job. Three days before he resigned, efforts were underway to complete his clearance for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security so that he could be designated as the state official eligible to receive sensitive information in North Carolina about terrorist and other threats.

Also, the Office of State Budget and Management planned to have a “strategic” budget meeting with Shanahan on the day before he departed, which Shanahan indicated he would attend.

***Read more details on the latest two stories to sidetrack the McCrory administration below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: The recasting of Gov. McCrory? Unraveling his shifts

PAT McCRORY LINKS MEDICAID REFORMS TO TEACHER PAY HIKES -- Governor pledges big announcement in coming months: Speaking at the Cary Chamber of Commerce's annual banquet Wednesday evening, Gov. Pat McCrory promised "controversial" proposals to change the state's Medicaid system. Overruns in Medicaid costs are a huge burden on the state and have drained funding for education, he said.

Citing issues with federal regulations, "a lack of waivers from the feds, and frankly, some of the politics within Raleigh here," McCrory said he wanted to change the state's implementation of the federal health program for people with low income.

"I'm going to have to bring up some fairly controversial proposals to change Medicaid, or we're going to continue to have some very, very serious issues here in North Carolina," McCrory told the crowd. "That's coming in the next three, four months. I'll probably introduce them while the legislature's out of town, between now and May," he said, drawing laughs. Changes to Medicaid, he said are " the way we're going to get raises to the teachers."

***McCrory appears to be charting a new course, but the administration is backtracking on a different education announcement. Read it all below in today's Dome Morning Memo***

Morning Memo: NCGA studies Colo. school choice; DHHS execs see pay bump

NCGA STAFF EXAMINES COLORADO SCHOOL CHOICE: Three employees of the General Assembly went to Douglas County, Colo., for nearly a week in June to examine that county’s school funding model and determine the feasibility of trying something similar in North Carolina.

The Douglas County school district, the third largest in Colorado, is known for its emphasis on school choice and has pursued major – and often controversial – education reforms in recent years. Read more here.

***Get a full wrap on North Carolina political headlines below in the Dome Morning Memo. Send news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com.***

These DHHS guests should stay outside, top official wrote

Progress NC Action, a political group opposed to the Republican governor and legislature, sent an email notice to supporters early Wednesday morning saying the group would deliver a petition with 19,000 signatures to Dr. Aldona Wos, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services at 10:30.

The petitions asks Wos to rescind the 35 percent and 37 percent raises two 24-year-old staff members received this year. Agency spokesman Ricky Diaz is making $85,000, and Matt McKillip makes $87,500.

Shortly after that notice, Wos chief of staff Mark Payne sent an email to DHHS employees telling them to be courteous to people affiliated with Progress NC because "they are guests on our campus."

But if the visitors stop any employee from getting to or from the office, the State Capitol Police should be called, Payne wrote.

Petitioners should not be allowed in any buildings, Payne wrote.

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.***

Morning Memo: N.C. Dems host muted event; McCrory explores gambling deal

N.C. DEMS HOST MUTED CONFAB: The N.C. Democratic Party hosts its executive committee meeting Saturday in Greensboro but the fanfare from years past is missing. The evening Sanford Hunt Frye Dinner is merely a reception this year. The event is typically one of the party's larger fundraisers and Massachusettes Gov. Deval Patrick served as keynote speaker in 2012. This year, no headliner as a speaker and U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan isn't even attending. It speaks to the party's still weakened status and lack of defining political leadership. A Democratic spokesman said the party opted for a reception because of the party's meeting is expected to last until 5 p.m. (But as anyone who has attended these in the past knows, they alwasy run long.) Former Gov. Jim Hunt and former state Supreme Court Justice Henry Frye, the event's namesakes, will address the party faithful.

McCRORY ADMINISTRATION EXPLORES MOVE TO EXPAND GAMBLING IN NORTH CAROLINA: Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration is considering a potential deal to allow a South Carolina-based Indian tribe to open a casino just across the border in North Carolina in a move that is generating swift and fierce opposition from top Republican lawmakers. A new effort to expand gambling operations in the state could net North Carolina millions of dollars under a revenue-sharing agreement with the Catawba Indian Nation.

But it would carry significant political risk for McCrory, pitting the Republican governor against members of his own party.

***Read more on the potential casino deal below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Pat McCrory's $1.1 million cabinet; pay hikes from previous years

Pat McCrory's cabinet makes more than $1 million -- a $78,000 boost since Republican lawmakers changed state law to allow the governor to set the salaries.

The eight cabinet salaries have been set in state law for years but the legislature gave the next governor the ability to change them. McCrory hiked his cabinet payroll an average 8 percent.

McCrory bumped four cabinet secretaries -- Health and Human Services, Public Safety, Transportation and Commerce -- to $135,000 from the previous $121,807. Four other agency heads -- Environment and Natural Resources, Revenue, Administration and Cultural Resources -- increased to $128,000 from $121,807.

McCrory transition costs come in under budget, so far

Pat McCrory's transition costs total less than $200,000 so far, with the bulk covering salaries for his top aides. The figure is detailed in public records obtained by The News & Observer.

The Republican legislature gave him $660,000 for transition costs, double the amount of his Democratic predecessor. McCrory said he would try not to spend it all. Not all costs are accounted for yet, and the total doesn't include any expenses related to the inauguration.

Four key aides made the most money: Thomas Stith, Kelly Nicholson, Charles Duckett and Pattie Fleming, documents show. Stith made $10,894 a month in the transition, a total salary equal to about $131,000 a year. Nicholson took home $13,895 a month, or the equivalent of $166,740 a year. The total projected for transition salaries -- $192,000 --goes through Jan. 18, suggesting the final number may be less because some staffers are moving to state payrolls before then.

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