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AFP wants right-to-work in state constitution

The North Carolina chapter of Americans for Prosperity on Wednesday called for a constitutional amendment to protect the state’s “right to work” law, which says workers can’t be forced to join unions and bans collective bargaining for public employees.

Chapter president Dallas Woodhouse made the announcement following the Michigan legislature’s approval of right-to-work legislation.

Woodhouse says AFP doesn’t doubt that the GOP-run legislature and North Carolina’s newly elected governor will uphold the law. But, he says, “fringe elements opposed to worker freedom continue to press for changes towards more forced unionization.”

The Koch Brothers-funded AFP has become an increasingly influential force in the state’s politics, with the ascent of the Republican-dominated General Assembly over the past two years.

Update: Thanks to Jonathan Kappler of the N.C. Free Enterprise Foundation, Dome is reminded that House Speaker Thom Tillis was talking publicly about doing this last fall. Add that to the to-do list for the 2012-13 session?

Morning Roundup: Marriage vote imperils benefits for unwed couples

Amendment opponents and supporters agree that health insurance and other benefits offered by local governments – for gay and unmarried heterosexual couples – would be disallowed if the amendment passes. 

Such domestic partner benefits are offered by nine local governments across the state. The change would affect about 70 households. But the impact on corporate employees is more unclear and could affect far more people. Read more here

--In its hard climb to raise $36.6 million for the Democratic National Convention, Charlotte’s host committee is reaching out to one of the party’s perennial allies: labor unions. They represent a potentially lucrative fountain of money. While the convention’s new self-imposed fundraising rules prohibit cash donations from corporations, lobbyists and PACs, they put no limits on money from union treasuries.

--John Edwards' attorneys battered Andrew Young in cross-examination. Trial Day 3 story here.

Coalition calls for collective bargaining for state workers

A coalition of labor, civil rights and religious groups rallied in front of the General Assembly offices today to call for an end to North Carolina's ban on public employees' collective bargaining and to resist balancing the state budget at the expense of public sector jobs and programs.

The rally drew about 100 supporters who listened to several speakers representing labor, churches and the NAACP, staff writer Craig Jarvis reports. About two dozen people staged a counter-protest across across the street in Bicentennial Plaza, shouting and chanting throughout the rally.

Both sides cited the public employees' union standoff in Wisconsin, where that state's governor has proposed to reduce public employee's pay and benefits and to limit their collective-bargaining rights.

First responders want bargaining rights

A BARGAIN? The U.S. Senate may vote as soon as this week on whether to allow police officers, firefighters and state troopers across North Carolina the right to bargain collectively on pay, benefits and hours. (N&O)

SUSIE"S LAW: A bill that would toughen penalties for abusing animals passed a key hurdle Tuesday and is on a fast track to becoming law. (Greensboro News & Record)

IMPACT TOUTED: Google, eager to gain more business and to win more support from state and local lawmakers, touted some $780 million that it said its ads generated for Tar Heel business, nonprofits and others. (N&O)

Unions put millions into health debate

* Labor unions trying to shape the nation's health-reform debate have poured millions of dollars into the campaign coffers of North Carolina lawmakers in recent years.

Since 2003, unions have spent $3.4 million to elect allies from the Tar Heel state to the U.S. House and Senate. Nearly all of it has gone to Democrats.

North Carolina, a right-to-work state, has the second-lowest union representation and the lowest union membership rate in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

But key voting blocs, including state workers and many service workers, are represented by labor groups such as the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU. Labor groups have organized rallies, town hall meetings, phone banks and advertising in support of health-care reform.

Of the state's 13 House members, Democrat Brad Miller of Raleigh received the most union money — $588,000. (N&O)

* North Carolina community colleges leaders have drawn up a new policy that would allow illegal immigrants into the two-year colleges.

The state Board of Community Colleges' policy committee on Thursday drafted rules that would admit undocumented immigrants if they graduated from a U.S. high school. The students would have to pay out-of-state tuition rates and could not take a seat from students who are legal residents. (AP)

Full budget plan to be released

* Rank-and-file lawmakers will get their first look at the state budget proposal today. A key detail that has yet to emerge is how many state positions would be eliminated. (AP)

* The budget proposal forces local schools to do their own cutting and orders that they protect the classroom. (Tavern)

* Unions don't yet have much to show for a big push they made in the state during the last election cycle. (N&O)

* Lawyers are expected to argue today a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by news organizations against Gov. Mike Easley over the deletion of e-mail messages. (AP)

* Congress is on break, but the advertising and lobbying blitz over health care reform begins. (NYT)

N.C. trusts military, not Wall Street

North Carolinians trust the military and distrust Wall Street.

A recent survey by the Elon University Poll found that around 90 percent gave high marks to the military, small businesses, medical doctors and colleges and universities.

At least 75 percent gave high marks to the U.S. Supreme Court and public schools.

Around 70 percent also trusted organized religion and the White House.

Around 50 percent trusted law firms, banks, T.V. news, Congress and labor unions, though roughly equal numbers had no confidence in T.V. news, Congress, and labor unions.

The military scored the highest, with 3.9 percent saying they had no confidence, 25.8 percent saying they had some confidence, 68.8 percent saying they had a great deal of confidence and 1.4 percent saying they didn't know.

Wall Street did the worst, with 60.4 percent saying they had no confidence, 33.1 percent saying they had some confidence, 2.8 percent saying they had a great deal of confidence and 3.7 percent saying they didn't know.

The live survey of 356 North Carolina residents was conducted April 19-23. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 5.3 percentage points.

Perdue dedicates union hall

Gov. Beverly Perdue helped Teamsters president James P. Hoffa dedicate a renovated union hall in Greensboro over the weekend.

The governor showed up for the dedication of the offices of Teamsters Local 391, which had been heavily damaged during storms last year, Rob Christensen reports.

Perdue told the 400 people attending the event about her visit to an unemployment office in Raleigh, where she chatted with people who have lost their jobs during the recession.

Perdue was elected last year with significant support from organized labor.

"Clearly the governor gets a lot of requests (for public appearances,)" said Rob Black, a spokesman for Local 391. "The fact that she honored the Teamsters is testament that we have worked with her since since her days in the state Senate. Our working relationship goes back a long way."

In an historical footnote, Hoffa’s father, former Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa, dedicated the grand opening of the building in 1962.

Hagan: Not enough votes for card check

Few senators have been the focus of such strong lobbying on the labor-backed card check off buill than U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan.

But the North Carolina Democrat said she still supports the legislation that would make it easier for labor unions to organize workers, Rob Christensen reports.

"We need to level the playing field for working families in this country," Hagan said in an interview.

"Currently," Hagan said, "I do not think the votes are there to pass the bill. There are alot of compromises being looked at."

How to title a controversial bill

How should you title a bill on a controversial subject?

One strategy: Don't mention it.

Consider the following bill titles, all of which neatly pull the trick of sounding either positive or innocuous while avoiding mentioning their raison d'être:

The Healthy Youth Act: Puts most students in comprehensive sex ed classes, with an option for abstinence-only at parents' discretion.

Personal Protection in Restaurants: Allows people with concealed weapons permits to bring handguns into restaurants and bars.

Conform State Law to Lawrence v. Texas: Gets rid of state statutes, since found unconstitutional, that prohibit gay sex.

Repeal Ban G.S. 95-99: Allows state government employees to join a union and collectively negotiate their contracts.

Defense of Marriage: Puts a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in North Carolina up for a referendum.

Note the words "guns," "homosexuality," "sex education" or "unions" don't appear in any of the above, or any other bills filed this session, for that matter.

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