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Morning Memo: McCrory administration slanted Medicaid report

McCRORY BOOED IN HIS HOMETOWN: For his 69th birthday party, Charlotte attorney Bill Diehl rented out The Fillmore at the N.C. Music Factory, hired rockers Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and invited around 400 of his closest friends, Jim Morrill reports. Among them: Gov. Pat McCrory.

When the band took a break, Diehl grabbed a mic and introduced McCrory, who was greeted with a loud smattering of boos. It wasn't the first time the former Charlotte mayor -- elected and re-elected seven times -- has heard boo birds in his hometown. In Charlotte, at least, the popular mayor has been a less popular governor. This summer he appeared at a concert at the Bechtler Museum. When he was formally introduced, many in the audience booed.

MUST-READ: For months, members of the McCrory administration have maintained that the state’s Medicaid program is "broken." But in the first of a two-part investigation, North Carolina Health News shows McCrory officials sat on information that would have depicted the state’s much-lauded Medicaid program in a better light. Read it here.

***More from the N.C. Health News story and an important notice to readers below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: Feds to challenge N.C. voting law; Senate candidates scrap for cash

FEDS TO CHALLENGE NORTH CAROLINA’S VOTING LAW: The U.S. Department of Justice will file a lawsuit Monday to stop North Carolina’s new voter ID law, which critics have said is the most sweeping law of its kind, according to a person briefed on the department’s plans.

Attorney General Eric Holder, who has said he will fight state voting laws that he sees as discriminatory, will announce the lawsuit at noon Monday, along with the three U.S. attorneys from the state. Critics said the law will disenfranchise African-American and elderly voters, while the Republican-led General Assembly in Raleigh said the law will protect the state’s voters from potential fraud.

***Read more on the forthcoming lawsuit, get #NCSEN updates and a roundup of North Carolina political headlines below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Advocacy group says two-thirds of legislature failed environment

Environment North Carolina says 112 lawmakers received a failing grade by their marks this session with only one Republican receiving a passing score.

The group's 2013 legislative scorecard put 65 percent of the 170-member N.C. General Assembly in the failing category based on nine contested votes in the House and 13 in the Senate. Nearly two-thirds of the Senate didn't pass the environmental advocacy group's test.

“This year, the Senate approved extreme measures to rush the state into fracking, do away with protections for our beaches, rivers and lakes, and dismantle our environmental commissions,” said Elizabeth Ouzts, Environment North Carolina state director, in a statement. “Given all the Senate’s attacks on the environment this year, their dismal scores are disappointing, but not all that surprising.”

In new Democratic polling, some state lawmakers looking vulnerable

The upheaval from the legislative session continues to reverberate as lawmakers look at what it did for their prospects in 2014. Voters are wavering, Republicans are openly discussing a course-correction next year and the N.C. Democratic Party is trying to capitalize. And now, it's showing in legislative district polls.

Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm based in Raleigh, recently looked at eight state Senate districts held by Republicans, finding two leaning Democrat and six more in the toss-up category. PPP pollster Tom Jensen writes that "the political landscape has shifted in such a way that Democrats have a lot more opportunities to eat into the Republican majority next year than could have ever been imagined even six months ago."



Document(s):
PPPSenate.pdf

Morning Memo: Democrats hit GOP on education in new ad campaign

SEE IT HERE FIRST: N.C. Democrats launch ad campaign hitting GOP on education: The headline "Republican leadership has failed teachers in North Carolina" is hitting newspapers across the state this week in full-page advertisements paid for by the N.C. Democratic Party. The ads target 17 legislative districts (eight Senate, nine House) and criticize Republicans for not increasing teacher pay, forcing class size increases, eliminating some teacher assistants, ending the back-to-school tax holiday, cutting money for textbooks and supplies, taking away the graduate school bonus for (future) teachers and allowing private school vouchers.

"We’re putting Gov. McCrory and Republican legislators on notice that their assault on public education is not going unnoticed," said Robert Dempsey, the party's executive director.

***See the ad and get a list of the targeted lawmakers below in today's Dome Morning Memo.***

Document(s):
AD.pdf

Lottery Commission expresses concern with new law directing proceeds

Members of the N.C. Education Lottery Commission this week voiced concerns about recent legislative changes to the ways lottery proceeds are spent, the Insider's Pat Gannon reports.

While commissioners acknowledged at their quarterly meeting Tuesday that decisions about where the money goes are the General Assembly's to make, they questioned the changes, including the elimination of the original "50-40-10" formula for distribution of lottery dollars.

Morning Memo: Lawmakers return for overrides; elections board hears appeals

Lawmakers return to Raleigh on Tuesday to consider overriding vetoes of two immigration and drug-testing-for-welfare-recipients bills. House Republican leaders may think they have enough votes, but Republican Gov. Pat McCrory has been fighting to the end to sway them, using new media to get his points across and relying on old-fashioned endorsements.

The governor isn't the only one using the veto-session to highlight legislative issues. ***Get more on it all below in today's Dome Morning Memo, along with a holiday weekend news roundup.***

Report: Burns' donations topped $235,000, linked to lobbying firm

The sweepstakes company owner caught in an illegal gambling ring gave more than $235,000 to North Carolina political candidates and parties in 2012, ranking as the largest individual donor to legislative contenders, according to a new analysis of state campaign finance records.

The total reported by Democracy North Carolina, a Raleigh-based elections watchdog group, is at least $60,000 more than previously known. Not all legislative candidates are required to file electronic campaign finance data, but Democracy North Carolina scoured the paper forms to find obscured contributions from Burns and his wife.

The lawmakers who received the most money, not surprisingly, were the legislative leadership: Senate leader Phil Berger received $8,000 and House Speaker Thom Tillis took $6,500. The report identified 63 lawmakers who accepted campaign checks, including 21 who received the maximum $4,000 per race (19 Republicans and two Democrats).

One nexus of the donations appears to be Moore & Van Allen, the law firm that lobbied for Burns' company, International Internet Technologies, and formerly employed Gov. Pat McCrory. The Republican governor received $8,000 from Burns and his wife (which he later donated to charity) but said he didn't know Burns.

Black caucus pledges to stay vocal this session

The Legislative Black Caucus laid out it's legislative agenda, using a quote from Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.: "There comes a time when silence is betrayal."

"Some say, 'This is a bad time for the Black Caucus. What are you really going to do?' We are going to do a lot because we are going to be vocal," said Rep. Garland Pierce, the caucus chairman and a Wagram Democrat. Black lawmakers make up the majority of the House and Senate Democratic caucuses.

He pounded the Republican agenda, as Democrats have for the past several weeks, as "truly taking form the needy and giving to the greedy." Pierce, a Baptist minister, combined legislation to allow the expiration of the earned-income tax credit, unemployment benefit cuts and blocking the expansion of Medicaid with voter ID, raising his voice to say "these things are fundamentally wrong at the core and plainly ungodly."

Pierce stopped short of suggesting the Republican cuts are racially tinged. "It's not so much about black, white and party, it's a class struggle," he said.

Democrats object to voter ID legislation, suggest process is smokescreen

Democratic lawmakers stood firmly against the voter ID vetoed in the previous session and don't see a need for the legislation now. "You can't tell me voter ID is needed, particularly in this state, where you have less than one percent of voter fraud even attempted," said Rep. Mickey Michaux, a Durham Democrat. "No one has shown me any reason to require that you walk up and present a voter id to vote."

Michaux and other lawmakers spoke hours after House Speaker Thom Tillis outlined a plan to bring a voter ID measure to a vote.

Democratic Sen. Floyd McKissick argued that the measure would disproportionately affect Democratic and independent voters. "That is their goal -- to oppress that vote by any means necessary," he said.

At the same time, Democrats noted that absentee voting -- which is favored by Republicans -- would not require a photo ID to cast a ballot. "I'm one who believes in equal protection," Michaux said. "If you put voter ID out there for some folks and not for other folks you are not getting equal protection."

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