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Morning Memo: Dems eager to replace Kinnaird; GOP's barbs in Senate fight

FOUR CANDIDATES SEEKING KINNAIRD SENATE SEAT: State Rep. Valerie Foushee and three others announced Wednesday their intent to seek state Sen. Ellie Kinnaird’s District 23 seat. The other candidates for Kinnaird’s seat that emerged Wednesday were retiring Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton; author and educator Amy Tiemann, and former Alamance County Rep. Alice Bordsen. Read more on the candidates here.

TODAY IN POLITICS: The country's former top military officer and the head of an Internet giant are the main attractions at a gathering of North Carolina business executives that will draw Gov. Pat McCrory. The CEO Forum is scheduled for Thursday at North Ridge Country Club in Raleigh. Former U.S. Secretary of State and retired Gen. Colin Powell is speaking along with Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers. McCrory will attend the event at 8 a.m.

***More North Carolina political news from the U.S. Senate race below in the Dome Morning Memo. Send news and tips to capitol@newsobserver.com.***

Morning Memo: Daily Show says North Carolina trumps South Carolina in crazy

VOTING BILL TARGET OF LAUGHS: Another day, another national television show puts North Carolina at the butt of the jokes. The Daily Show on Comedy Central took aim at the recently approved elections bill that puts restrictions on voting. Host John Oliver joked that the state election bill would place “all voting booths on buoys that are only accessible by yacht." The segment lumped North Carolina together with Texas and Florida but the Tar Heel state (starting at 2:30) received particular attention and Senate leader Phil Berger make an appearance from a TV clip. Oliver says the voting bill is just the “tip of the true $h*!-berg of a legislative session" and concludes: “Your move South Carolina. Oh, you thought you had crazy Carolina all sown up, didn’t you?”

***The state's system to deliver food assistance is troubled and ALEC is targeted ahead of this week's meeting. Read more North Carolina political news below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

McCrory: Number of state worker injuries unacceptable

Gov. Pat McCrory wants state officials to step up efforts to worker safety efforts, saying there are too many injuries among state employees.

There were 5,640 injuries and one death in 2011-12 among state workers costing the state $75 million in worker compensation. The year ending this June it looks like there will be 6400 accident, eight deaths $83 million in worker comp costs.

“This is totally unacceptable,” McCrory told a meeting of the Council of State on Tuesday. “We have got to reduce the rate of injury.''

Not only does the state need to prevent injuries, but the state needs to save money on workman's comp.

On Tuesday he declared June worker safety month for state employees.

McCrory highlights his concerns with Senate budget plan

Gov. Pat McCrory is making his concerns known with the Senate budget. In a statement, McCrory said he is "pleased the Senate's budget proposal aligns with some of our major priorities." But his office issued a list of "areas for further review," aka "where the Senate went off-track."

They include: "elimination of Special Superior Court judges; transfer of the SBI; exclusion of drug treatment courts; no salary increases for state employees; no expansion of pre-K; no eugenics compensation; and does not allow for routine legal services in each agency."

The major differences will put the onus on the House to help carry the governor's water, unless the Senate bends to the governor's concerns, which seems unlikely given the tenor so far this session.

Senate offers details on its budget plan

The state Senate’s $20.6 billion budget proposal has no raises for state employees, puts new limits on health services for some Medicaid patients, and anticipates a tax cut.

Leading senators discussed their reasoning behind the budget plan, which affects every taxpayer, public school student, and some businesses looking to move to the state.

“We live within our means,” said Sen. Pete Brunstetter, a Winston-Salem Republican and a chief budget writer, during a news conference Monday morning. “We’ve been through four very difficult years with recession and post-recession, and yet we manage this budget not only without a tax increase, but we manage it with some tax reform accounted for.”

Gov. Pat McCrory and GOP legislators have not agreed on tax change details, but generally, they want to want to reduce income tax rates and spread the sales tax to more services. Find more details here.

Asleep at wheel day before, Democrats try to fight personnel bill

Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday tried to fight legislation backed by Gov. Pat McCrory to curb civil service protections for state employees -- a day after they missed the bill on the calendar and inadvertently voted to give it preliminary approval.

House Bill 834 received a 110-5 vote Tuesday. But Democrats mounted an effort to amend the measure Wednesday, trying to limit the number of political appointments the governor's office can make for state positions and add protections for workers who are cut under a reorganization plan.

All three failed. But the final vote to approve the bill was much closer at 74-40. A Democratic lawmaker said caucus members didn't realize what the bill did when they voted for it a day earlier.

Morning Memo: Tax plan takeaways, full day at legislature

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The sausage machine is churning fast these days. A House regulatory reform committee will consider a number of measures to streamline government oversight, a major Republican agenda item, and the House Elections Committee will hear bills to repeal the state's antiquated literacy test and make judicial elections partisan contests. A Senate education committee will vote on a bill to regulate student prayers at school and athletic events and a Senate health care care committee takes up another abortion-related bill. The full House will take votes on a bill to impose term limits on House and Senate leaders and a proposal to repeal the estate tax. The full Senate will hear a measure to ban e-cigarette sales to minors. Gov. Pat McCrory will make an economic development announcement at 3 p.m. in Raleigh.

***More political intelligence below in the Dome Morning Memo including analysis of the Senate's tax plan and a roundup of the fast and furious legislative action. Send news and tips to dome @newsobserver.com. Thanks.***

State employee non-discrimination bills

Democrats in the state House and Senate filed bills this week that would prohibit state and local governments from making employment decisions based on a person's sexual orientation.

Equality NC plans to promote the bills when supporters come to the Legislative Building on April 16.

Supporters have failed for years to get this legislation passed. When Democrats ran the legislature, getting a committee to hear the bill was a notable event.

Sen. Josh Stein, a Raleigh Democrat who filed this session's Senate bill, sponsored an identical bill last session that died in the Senate Rules Committee.

McCrory offers modest budget, small pay raise for state workers

Gov. Pat McCrory proposed a modest $20.6 billion state budget Wednesday that includes a 1 percent pay hike for state employees but limits spending growth to 2 percent.

The Republican governor emphasized spending on education and economic development, two campaign priorities in the plan, by including money to hire 1,800 additional classroom teachers and $2.7 million to craft a new branding strategy to lure companies to the state. Another 5,000 at risk 4-year-olds would be able to get into pre-kindergarten programs, at a cost of $9 million a year. But it also cuts $117 million that now funds teacher assistants.

“We have a sound foundation but the foundation now has some cracks in it,” McCrory said in an announcement at the Capitol. “Our immediate goal is to fill in those cracks ... so we can have stronger foundation for future generations.”

McCrory included no major high-priced spending initiatives, reflecting the state’s still tenuous economic picture and his campaign promises to limit government programs. On average, state agencies will see their budgets cut 1 percent to 3 percent from the current year’s $20.2 billion spending plan, leading to some jobs cuts and the elimination of longtime state interests. The budget year starts July 1.

Dalton proposes 4 weeks of paid maternity leave for state workers

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Walter Dalton Tuesday said he will push for paid family leave for teachers and state employees if he is elected. His proposal would allow new parents paid maternity and paternity leave for up to four weeks without losing their state jobs. Currently, the state offers no paid leave for new parents.

“So many of North Carolina's teachers and state workers are part of working families and they deserve a fair deal,” Dalton, the state's lieutenant governor said in a statement.

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